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BYU, Penn State to Women's DI Elite Final

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BYU, Penn State to Women's DI Elite Final

Penn State qualified for the national women's DI Elite final after edging Life University 13-7 in a wild game.

"It was a great game," said Hope Rogers, who starred for Penn State for years and now is pacing the sidelines helping coach. "They went for the poach a lot and really challenged us at the breakdown. Our set piece was good, especially with the new players we have in the front row." 

Life opened the with some excellent ball-handling. Kaitlyn Broughton gathered a loose ball, popped to Cynthia Kelly, who found some space, cut through the Penn State midfield, and then passed back to Broughton, who did the rest. Madison Ohmann hit the conversion and Life led 7-0.

But the Penn State defense ramped up after that.

PSU exposed a blitzing defender to get going forward and then worked the phases. A knock-on gave Penn State a scrum and after a few dicey moments the ball was shipped wide to score in the corner.

The game was hard-hitting and intense, and neither team could find enough space to get much going. Penn State had some prime scoring opportunities, but penalties, as much as anyhting else, stopped them. The big hits kept coming and caused several knock-ons, and the scoring just stopped - 7-5 at halftime.

The second half was similar, as both teams realized they needed to win the physical battle. But Penn State slowly began to win the territorial battle. Life had some early scoring chances, including a scrum five meters form the Penn State line. But the Nittany Lions took the strike against the head and survived. 

Gabby Cantorna's kicking for field position was a crucial aspect here, and eventually Penn State turned that pressure into points. The scrum got them out of trouble, and also served as the platform to get Penn State into Life's 22. Those powerful forwards got close to the line, and forced a Life penalty for holding onto the ball in the ruck - a penalty that earned a yellow card - and Cantorna put the kick over to put Penn State up 8-7.

Once again Penn State mounted a defensive stand in their end, and then from a lineout inside the Life 22, the Lions mauled it over to make it 13-7.

That's how the scoring ended, but it wasn't over, as Life struggled mightily to get some points. Penn State's goal line defense was outstanding.

The game ended when Life sent the ball wide to Deshel Ferguson, and she took the corner, only to be tackled into touch.

So Penn State moves on to the national final to face BYU. In years past, BYU was had to play as Women's Cougar Rugby because the team wasn't an official club sport (BYU treats their clubs differently than most schools - being a club sport is serious business). But this year, the team has been elevated to club status and can play as BYU. It's a step up for everyone, with more funding, and more security.

It has shown on the pitch

BYU cruised into the semis but struggled more with a tough Central Washington team. It was power against pace and BYU's pace and ball handling won out. As in the other semi, the winning team had to come back. CWU's Jenny Johnson set up McKenzie Pusch for a try and a 5-0 Wildcats lead. But star center Jordan Gray equalized.

BYU's fast attack and quick ball from the ruck got them going again. Prop Rebekah Hebdon went over from short range, and prop Emily Briggs did the same to make it 17-5. And just as halftime beckoned, the wind smacked down a CWU clearance kick and and from there BYU somehow got the ball to Gray, who set up Analise Arnold for the try and a 24-5 lead.

That was it. Central kept coming at BYU in the second half, and did get a try from Nate Serevi. But even with the wind at their backs, the Wildcats had Cougars in their faces.