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2014 Women's College Player of the Year

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2014 Women's College Player of the Year

Photo courtesy Penn State Rugby

 

ELIZABETH CAIRNS

What do you visualize when you think of Penn State? The only college team with World Cup Eagles? Intimidating depth? A crew of talented staffers? Pete Steinberg’s Nittany Lions are the gold standard of a successful program, and with that bull’s eye on one’s back, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and discipline to stay undefeated.

PSU couldn’t ask for a better leader than Elizabeth “Bitsy” Cairns. Her performance on the field speaks for itself – she’s one of the hardest flankers in the college game today – but it’s the shared regard from her teammates that lends layers to the captain. Every teammate interviewed cited Cairns as one of their idols – whether it’s for her physicality, sense of the game, or general good nature.

That leadership became especially valuable during the fall, when longtime head coach Pete Steinberg took a sabbatical after the World Cup. Kate Daley had joined the coaching staff in the spring and became temporary head coach in the fall. Additionally, there were some competitive friendlies on the schedule. A fissure had occurred in the women’s college sphere, with half competing in ACRA and the other in USA Rugby. Two champions had essentially been named, and the community was eager to see DI and DII titleholders face off.

There was no contest in DII (see “Team of the Year”), but the first contest between PSU and Norwich was an exciting one in which the Cadets led at one point. The final 10 minutes saw three Penn State tries secure the win, but the point had been made: The opposition was closing in.

Another good game against Notre Dame College saw PSU enter the post-season with a more competitive than normal build-up, and it paid off. The eventual fall champions spent the first weekend in December toughing out a semifinal win over Quinnipiac and a more convincing victory over Norwich in the final.

Subtle though it sounds, Penn State handled the new pressures – from a new coach, to tougher opponents, to an earlier-than-normal peak to the season – like professionals, and it was the leadership from captain Cairns that steadied the ship.

 

CLICK HERE for the Women's National Team awards

 

 

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