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NDC v Davenport, a Long-Awaited Showdown

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NDC v Davenport, a Long-Awaited Showdown

While there is still plenty of opening-round playoff games to review, there’s one Round of 16 game that is building too much hype to ignore: Notre Dame College vs. Davenport. The Midwest sides combined for 232 points on Saturday, and didn’t surrender a point-against during the USA Rugby Women’s DII College Fall Championship, hosted by ACRA, Round of 32. The teams have yet to play a competitive DII side this fall, but hopefully that will all change this Saturday.

Although both programs are young, the teams already have some history. Last March, Davenport defeated Notre Dame College by 20 points in an early-season friendly. The Falcons went on to beat the Panthers twice in an April 7s national qualifier (33-12, 24-17).

But as Davenport coach Greg Teliczan affirmed: Last year was last year.

The rosters have changed, and with it, the strengths and styles of their respective games. Falcons coach Mark Andrade made a concerted effort to diversify the team’s attack – not that outside center Hannah Gauthreaux has taken a back seat. The most recognizable Falcon scored seven tries and kicked 13 of 19 conversions in Saturday’s win over UW Stout. Right behind her was Stephanie Kronenberger, who was subbed out with 15 minutes to go but still dotted down five tries. Kronenberger plays in both the pack and at center, depending on what the starting team needs.

One sees that same flexibility in players like Irayda Macedo. The former Fallbrook scrumhalf signed on this year, and after rehabbing an injury, has worked her way onto the starting line as a flanker and flyhalf.

“I can see her as a 10, but her tackling and rucking are so textbook that, as a fast forward with hands, she really makes things happen up front,” Andrade said of Macedo. “Plus, Lea Walsh, who is a captain, at 10 is hard to beat out, as she knows our attack so well and is a great general for the backs.”

As the playoffs continue, expect more personnel changes, like Danielle Walko-Siua, who was injured for most of the season, and Patsy Ford.

“She is so talented and has experience playing high-level, high-pressure games,” Andrade said of the Youth Olympic Games wing, “so I look for her to be a big contributor.

“Patsy Ford was out the last two games with prior commitments and will be returning for Saturday,” Andrade said of the power forward. “I am hoping that her time away watching us play and seeing the results brings her back even hungrier.”

One of Notre Dame’s most valuable forwards, Keke O’Neal, is out for the season, and while her experience is hard to replace, the room has seen walk-on Charity Edwards step into the light.

“She has taken to the game like a fish to water,” Andrade said. “She is a hard-hitting forward with speed and will see a lot of playing time.”

Davenport is a different team, too. Teliczan went after some top high school talent and it’s paying off. Herriman, Utah, graduate Ashlee Byrge has made a huge impact. The Junior All American, who competed in the age-grade’s Canada tour last summer, scored six tries and 12 conversions for 54 points against Illinois State Saturday.

Danielle Ordway also played on that Junior All American tour, and the sophomore is the most exciting finisher on the Panther squad. The wing chipped in three tries on the weekend and leads the squad in season tries. Brittany O’Dell and graduate student Jen Harig bolster the back attack, while graduate prop Caren Brown and flanker Makala Ferguson are at the epicenter of the forward drive. Halfbacks Courtenay Talef and Hannah Tennant direct traffic well and rank highly on the team’s top scorers.

“Davenport's attack is hard to defend,” Andrade said. “They have forwards with great hands and ball movement. And Ferguson and Ordway – you know they are going to be running downhill. We did lose to them in a friendly last spring, but we did have great success against them in 7s on our home pitch, so our girls have a feeling that they are beatable.”

“I'm expecting to see the number one team in women's college rugby,” Teliczan said. “To beat NDC, we will have to play mistake-free rugby and keep ball possession.”

Both programs clearly respect each other, and Saturday’s stakes don’t get much higher: Lose, and the season’s over. Win, and continue onto the DII quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal match will played against the winner of Ithaca College vs. Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 16, in South Euclid, Ohio. Click here for the updated brackets.