The forerunner for the ACRA DII title, two-time national finalist Winona State, took the first step in booking tickets to the women's college Final Four by defeating UW La Crosse 76-0 in the Round of 32.
A steady wind downfield affected the Black Katts' first-half performance, as four tries were recalled for forward passes during the first quarter.
“Anxious, the players were trying so hard that they made tiny mistakes that negated scores,” Winona coach Roger Riley said. “Intertwined with the minor errors were some great pieces of play.”
Clearly, as Winona scored five tries in the first 40 minutes. Kathryn Zahn, Georgia Porter, Lindsey Bucki, Katie Dries and the hard-running MVP, Nikki Linberg, dotted down tries. All of the scores were off-center and into the wind, so the conversions weren’t making it over the crossbar.
Winona eagerly awaited the second half when the wind would be at their backs. The coaching staff challenged the squad to double their first-half points, and the team came through with an extra point to spare.
Linberg opened the half with the second of her three tries, and then fullback Heather Kohl returned a surprise clearing kick from UW La Crosse. She wove through the entire pack, busted through three tackles and celebrated the 40-meter power run with a try. Ashley Pomeroy, Hillary Zimmer, Hunter Schlicting, Bucki, Holly Edelburg (in her first game back in six weeks) and Kourtney Kavajecz all dotted down. Dries and Zimmer added the conversions.
It was the dominating performance to which the field is accustomed, with the powerful Winona forwards controlling the breakdowns and making yardage with most carries. The most impressive stat is the distribution of points. Only Linberg and Bucki had multi-try performances, while nine other teammates waited their turns to score.
The Black Katts will look to continue their playoff run this weekend, as the Minnesota team travels to Wayne State (Neb.) to face the University of Nebraska (defeated Colorado College 57-0 Saturday) in the Round of 16. The victor will play the winner of Mankato State (defeated UW Stevens Point 24-19 in Round of 32) v Mesa State (which received a bye through the first round). Whoever exits the weekend undefeated will head to Lakeland, Fla., on Dec. 7-8 for the Final Four.