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Falcons 100+ Pts Better Than USAR's Best

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Falcons 100+ Pts Better Than USAR's Best

There were so many big scores between women’s colleges last weekend, but the one that stood out was the one that wasn’t supposed to happen. DII ACRA finalist Notre Dame College walloped USA Rugby DII champion Mary Washington 109-0.

Many questions arose, but both teams’ coaches confirmed the story behind that huge score: Notre Dame College is just that much better this year.

“I was a little surprised,” Notre Dame College Mark Andrade said of the result. “We watched the USA Rugby [DII championship] film over and over again, and we thought that if we had gone last year, we would have had a good shot at them ... but I didn't expect 109 points.”

The Falcons were low on numbers last year – it hurt them during the ACRA final, in which Winona pulled away in the second half, and prevented them for accepting an at-large bid to USA Rugby’s nationals.

“We were hungrier, especially after last season,” Andrade said. “They wanted to prove to the country that we belong at the top.”

Notre Dame went up 44-0 at halftime, and since both squads were light, the coaches decided to treat the second half as more of a B side, working in all of their subs. Mary Washington was missing a few starters to begin with and was on its third scrumhalf by halftime, so slotting in replacements was a necessity.

“We were missing people, but nothing that justifies 109 points,” Mary Washington coach Kris Kabza said. “It [game style] was not exotic in any way, just really sound rugby. They were so quick to the breakdowns; at any point in time, you could look left or right of the ball and there would be someone in support.”

Notre Dame was missing people, too. Hooker Kayla Rudman, second row/center Stephanie Kronenberger, flanker Maddie Goodwin (ACL, out for the season) were all out due to illness or injury. But unlike last year, the Falcons have depth, and that’s because of stellar recruiting – so strong that five or six starters from last year, according to Andrade, would be playing on the B side today.

“Last year, we were known for our speed and backline,” Andrade nodded to captain Hannah Gauthreaux, the team’s most dangerous offensive threat. “This year, we’ve added some speed, and our backline can still break away, but our pack is stronger, quicker and more experienced.”

Hannah Long moved from No. 8 to second row (New Zealander Rebecca Swainson slid back to eightman) and made her presence known from the opening kickoff. Barreling off the line, she was 10 meters ahead of her teammates and intimidated the receiver into knocking on the catch. Flanker Kawena Mendiola was fantastic in contact and has good speed and hands. And prop Najya Jordan, who joined the squad last spring, has great control of her size, and as soon as she cleans up her hands in contact, will become another reliable attacking threat.

The backs picked up some good talent as well. Jianna McCullough hasn’t missed a step since her days with Lakewood High School, and she teams up well with freshman wing Danielle Walko-Siua, who is fresh off the Youth Olympic Games. Both are only 5’0” but are strong and elusive.

“They’re so quick at supporting everyone,” Andrade said. “We’d be watching the film, and they’d disappear into a sea of people, and then they’d pop out, with the other one supporting, and always moving forward.”

Flyhalf Lea Walsh was fantastic on the day, with a smart boot and saavy running lines herself. Gauthreaux was a little more muted than usual. She did score but she was setting up her teammates more often than not.

“Teams have keyed in on Hannah but now they have to watch the whole backline,” Andrade added. “Emilia Ferrara, our fullback, is also a powerful runner, and we have to get her more involved in the line.”

There are a few things that Andrade and staff need to address – some complacency-based things like high rucks and handling errors, but also next-level awareness like forwards’ running lines and timing for punches.

“I do wish it was more competitive,” Andrade reflected on Saturday. “We have Penn State in a couple of weeks, and as you can tell from our scores so far, we haven’t played defense yet. When we’re looking at the film from this past weekend, we’re not looking at how we played against Mary Washington; we’re looking at the mistakes we have to clean up before playing Penn State.”

As for Mary Washington, it’s back to drawing board. The team kicks off its Capital conference league this Saturday against American, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Virginia side revs back up for the season (stay tuned for more on Mary Washington).

Notre Dame College got the redemption that it was looking for, but Saturday’s game was only the Falcons’ third of the season. There’s a lot more rugby to play, and more titles to claim.