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Bobcats Within Striking Distance of Norwich

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Bobcats Within Striking Distance of Norwich

Saturday’s game against Norwich was probably the most important of DI Quinnipiac’s fall season. Yes, it was friendly. Yes, it was a loss. But the 45-38 scoreline is representative of the vast improvement the team has made since fall 2013. This time last year, the Bobcats were licking their wounds after a near-shutout (41-5) to ACRA champion Norwich, and last weekend, Quinnipiac had the Cadets sweating.

Norwich scrumhalf Emily Oor scored five minutes into the match, and the attentive captain caught Quinnipiac sleeping on quick taps on several occasions. Four minutes later, the hosts enjoyed their only lead of the game, when All American outside center Natalie Kosko scored the first of her three tries, which soccer convert and Derry City, Ireland, native Aine McKeever converted, 7-5. Kosko is the team’s leading try scorer, but inside center Elena Orlando did an excellent job of putting the junior Eagle into space. Orlando was so good at eluding the first-up defender and getting her shoulders through the tackle to hit an on-running Kosko.

There the score stood until the 34th minute, when Norwich flyhalf Hannah Bell set up inside center Ally Day for the try, and then converted the score. The half ended on an Ilona Maher try, the first of three. The freshman prop has arguably been the team’s best pickup, and the aggressive front row was unstoppable from 10 meters out. A nice dummy move didn’t hurt either.

The Cadets built on its 19-7 lead early in the second half, when No. 8 Val McGuire banked the first of her two tries. Bell’s conversion made it 26-7. The game started to get away from Quinnipiac, which made Elisa Cuellar’s try even that more important. This time, it was Kosko who drew in the defense and fed the ball to the oncoming fullback at the right moment, 26-12.

During the next 10 minutes, Norwich ran in two more tries – one from Maher, the other from McGuire – and the hosts seemed a little deflated. Down 38-12 with 22 minutes remaining, the Bobcats could have easily let this game spiral farther out of control. Instead, Quinnipiac spent the final quarter scoring four tries – two coming from the Orlando/Kosko duo, one from Shannon Durkin, and the final from Cuellar. McKeever tacked on three conversions, too. In the end, Quinnipiac outscored Norwich 31-26 in the second half.

Had the defense held up, then it would have been a win for the Bobcats, but the tackles were a little high and Norwich was able to keep its ball moving quickly. And then there was Maher, again. The freshman’s third dive-over try broke up Quinnipiac’s fourth-quarter flurry, and it was enough to preserve the win, 45-38.

A good win for Norwich, but the Cadets have shown some vulnerability in the final quarter of close games – first against Penn State (an equally thrilling match), and Saturday against Quinnipiac. The Bobcats will continue to build its Independent resume on Oct. 11, when the team travels to Provo, Utah, to take on DI Final Four team Women’s Cougar Rugby (BYU). Norwich will play Northeastern this Saturday in a Northeast cross-divisional match.