DII Nationals Championship
Albany 34- Albuquerque 22
11/14/10 11am kick-off
This was the 7th time Albany had travelled to nationals but only the second time ever that Albany had played for a national title. We had come up short 4 years ago against Raleigh. Now, in 2010, we felt like it was our turn to finally bring home the championship. Pre-game jitters were evident in warm-ups, the team was quiet and the waves we ran just before kick-off were filled with dropped balls. We brought the club together for once last huddle to calm our nerves and with a cheer of "FINISH" we took the field to take on the Albuquerque Atomic Sisters. Albuquerque was another team we didn't know much about, they had played on Friday when we were either warming up or playing. We we had been expecting to meet defending-champs Raleigh in the finals, however the Atomic Sisters blew them up 22-7 on Friday. Obviously, Albuquerque could hang with the top teams in DII- we knew we would have to play to the best of our abilities if we were going to walk off the pitch as champions.
The match started off with solid rucking and quick off-loads in contact by both clubs. The backs on both sides launched several kicks early, testing each other for weaknesses. With nine minutes gone, one of the Albuquerque kicks paid off- it pinned us deep in our 22 and their support runners were able to score the try (no conversion). The next 10 minutes saw a back and forth battle with neither team able to get much of anything going. Our back were having a hard time linking up and breaking the gain line and our forwards, while rucking well, weren't able to break thru either. At the 19 minute mark, we cut the lead down to 5-3 off a JoAnne Kos penalty kick. However, less than five minutes later, we committed a penalty of our own in front of our try-line that Albuquerque was able to turn into a try and conversion. The score was 10-3 Albuquerque. With 15 minutes left in the half, Albany dug deep, settled down and regain our style of play that had got us to the finals. With four minutes to go in the half, Kate Fuller found space on the outside to score and smartly touched it down close to the goal posts, to give JoAnne a better angle to convert, which she did. The game was now tied 10-10. Two minutes later Albany was able to put the Albuquerque back-line under pressure with great ball movement and looping support runners. Ruth Robertson brought it home to give the club one more score before half (Kos conversion). Score was 17-10 going into the second.
The half time talk saw one of the senior members of the club give an impassioned speech about leaving everything we had on the field and to not to let up until the very end. When we took the field again for the start of the second, we were able to pick up where we left off- controlling our possession, moving the ball well and holding them on defense. About 6 minutes into the second half, JoAnne Kos got into the try zone and converted her own score, giving Albany a 14 point lead, meaning Albuquerque would have to convert two trys to tie the game... a nice lead but not enough to keep a team with explosive runners like Albuquerque at bay for long. It was one of those hard-charging runners that found the in-goal next, cutting our lead to 9 points with just over 20 minutes to play. Albany didn't tighten up their play though and kept their game plan going of the forwards providing a stable platform for the backs to attack from. At this point in the match Albuquerque also stopped kicking the ball as much since our back three were starting to counter-attack well. It was winger Willow Eyers who scored next, getting a pass out wide that she ran in from about 30 meters out. The score was 29-15 with about 14 minutes left. We started to get some more fresh legs in at this point so we could keep up the pressure until the very end. We got our final score of the match when fullback Beth Fairall touched the ball down for 5. There was 8 minutes left in the match at this point and any thoughts of victory were quickly slipping away from Albuquerque but they fought hard until the final whistle. The efforts paid off when they got a try and conversion on the last play of the game. The final score was Albany 34- Albuquerque 22. JoAnne Kos was named MVP of the match- it was well deserved recognition for a great display of atheisms, skill and mental focus, not just in the final but on Friday as well.
DII Nationals Day 1 Match Reports
November 12, 2010
This is the first year that USA Rugby is officially recognizing the Women's Division II Championships. The decision was made this summer to bring DII into the fold. As a result, the tournament format had some of the trappings of the original DII tournaments in that 8 teams would play 3 games over the course of the weekend to decide a champion. As a result Albany would play two 60-minute matches on Friday (quarterfinal and semi-final) and one 80-minute match on Sunday.
DII Nationals Quarterfinal Match
Albany 41- Severn River 5
Albany's first match of the 2010 DII Nationals kicked off at 10:15am in Mesa, AZ. The team faced Severn River (Maryland) the MARFU #2 seed. Albany didn't know much about Severn River other than they were a newer club with a lot of heart and that they had taken quite a few clubs in MARFU by surprise this season.
The team knew that they would have to come out hard and set the tone early if they wanted to control the match. First ten minutes of the match saw Albany do just that. Some great passing in the backline got Krisitn Bonomo in the try zone just 2 minutes in. JoAnne Kos followed up with a try of her own a couple minutes later that she also converted. At the 9 minute mark Albany got a taste of Severn River's potential on ofense when their giant winger picked the ball up off a broken play and stiff-armed herself past three of our best tacklers to score a try. The score was now 12-5 and with 50 minutes of rugby left to play, it was definitely game on. The Severn River try was a valuable reminder to Albany that they would have to play some solid defense if they wanted to make it very far in this tournament.
The club kept applying pressure with some great rucking and ball movement. Severn River was on their back foot quite often the rest of the half and wasn't able to string together many phases when they did have the ball. As a result Albany was able to get three more scores before the half- a try each by Krisitn Bonomo and Rachel Start and penalty kick and conversion by JoAnne Kos. Score was 27-5 at the half.
The second half saw the team to continue to play well and the club started to work in the entire bench to rest some legs for the semi-final match. All seven subs played really well for Albany and the pressure didn't let off. We got another try (Kos try and conversion) and an amazing mauling try to close out the game (15-year old Jenna Watson gets the credit for that score). Beth Fairall got the conversion.
Final score was 41-5 and it was on to the semi-finals against Pittsburgh at 4:30pm. Albany was one step closer to their goal of bringing home a National Championship.
DII Nationals Semi-final Match
Albany 22- Pittsburgh 0
This match was a rematch of last year's semi-final in Houston. In that match-up Pittsburgh beat Albany 5-3 in a hard-fought defensive battle. Many from the club remembered the bitter taste from losing such a close match and being denied a shot at the title and we were determined not to let it happen again. Pittsburgh was going to be a formidable opponent though, they've been one of the top Midwest clubs for years and always performed well at Nationals rarely finishing out of the top four.
The first half saw Albany pressure the Pittsburgh forwards with some excellent rucking and we were getting clean ball out to the backs but the Pittsburgh back-line was charging up hard and did a good job of closing down our options. At the 10 minute mark JoAnne Kos was able to break thru the line and touch down for a try to make the score 5-0. The next 20 minutes saw Albany controlling the ball well but we were hard pressed to break thru the solid Pittsburgh defense. The match was shaping up to be just like last year's battle. Just before half Ruth Robertson escaped on a long run that yielded a try (Kos conversion). The 12-0 score gave Albany some much needed breathing room to start the second half.
The second half saw more great rucking from the forwards and JoAnne Kos getting a lot of pressure at fly-half to disrupt our offense but our defense held and anything that Pittsburgh tried to get going, Albany would quickly shut down. At 13 minutes in the forwards put together a great series in front of the Pittsburgh line that saw Alicia Backus get a push-over try. Score was 17-0 with just over 15 minutes to go. At this point Pittsburgh realized that if they didn't start scoring soon the game was going to be quickly out of reach. To their credit they spent almost all of the remaining time in our 22, pressuring us with everything they had. Our backline had so many try-saving tackles, we lost count and the forwards held up several trys and pushed one Pittsburgh maul back out of try zone. Albany was able to relieve the pressure a couple of times with a couple of long runs by our wings. The last run of the day also resulted in the final score of the match with Willow Eyers finding the corner just before the whistle blew.
Overall it was a great team effort by all 23 members of the club here. Albany would take on Albuquerque at 11am on Sunday for the DII Championships.
Albany's competitive DII women's rugby club.