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.