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Falcons Head South for DII Semis

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Falcons Head South for DII Semis

Notre Dame College is heading back to Florida after its 2-0 weekend at the USA Rugby Women’s DII College Fall Championship, hosted by ACRA. The Ohio side is the only semifinalist that won its games convincingly – but that’s not to say that the games weren’t competitive.

The highly anticipated match-up between Notre Dame College and Davenport did not disappoint, and like its compatriots around the country, occurred on a freshly shoveled pitch. The Falcons launched a systematic battle; there were no periods of runaway scoring or the use of trick plays, but a concentrated effort from the forwards who set up athletic backs. The result was two tries in either half – flyhalf Leah Walsh and prop Patty Ford in the first, and flanker Stephanie Kronenberger and outside center Hannah Gauthreaux in the second. Gauthreaux added three conversions, while Davenport’s Ashlee Byrge slotted a penalty in the 26-3 decision.

“I would rank Davenport up there with the toughest teams that we have ever played, including last year’s final four,” Notre Dame College coach Mark Andrade said. “I think their top-four ranking is well deserved. They play the game not only smart but also very tough.”

Sunday saw a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal against Ithaca College, which had dismantled Cincinnati 87-12 in its Round of 16 match Saturday. Yesterday’s game was not the close battle it was in 2013, and the 41-5 result comments more on the Falcons’ improvement than it does the Renegades’ strength.

Kronenberger led with two tries, while Gauthreaux and Walsh got their second of the tournament, and wing Brittany Kapsalis, lock Hannah Long and inside center Danielle Walko-Suia added a try apiece. Amy Johnstone, who scored a hat trick against Cincinnati, touched down Ithaca’s lone try in the first half.

“I think the difference with our team this year versus last year is our depth and the experience our depth has,” Andrade reflected on 2013’s second-place finish to Winona. “Last year I felt we played good defense but there were a few key players who were doing most of the tackling and rucking. This year, we are faster to the breakdowns, and the one-on-one tackle assignments are taken care of, allowing for the rest of the defense to set against the attack properly. Like every team, we can clean up on penalties and a few knock-ons here and there.”

Three weeks remain before Notre Dame College trades in its snow-covered fields for balmy Florida. The conditions in South Euclid mean the Falcons will be spending their time indoors, and Andrade indicated the team will be focusing on fitness, while staff reviews what it knows about Kutztown, the team’s semifinal opponent. The Pennsylvania team is also returning to Florida for the second time in a row, and eked out a 22-20 victory over Vassar yesterday (and 43-20 win over Stonehill Saturday) to solidify the berth.

For the full brackets, click here.

For photos from the Notre Dame College vs. Davenport match, click here.