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Davenport Redeemed at DII ACRA 7s

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Davenport Redeemed at DII ACRA 7s

Good support, good athletes, and good preparation help Davenport to DII title. (Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids RFC)

As the only Midwest representative in both the DI and DII ACRA 7s championships, Davenport did its region proud this weekend in West Point, N.Y. The Panthers outscored its five opponents 166-38 and is the undisputed DII ACRA 7s champion.

Davenport has good athletes – All Americans, all-star team vets – but more importantly, the side from Grand Rapids, Mich. was backed by a spring spent at DI-level tournaments. The Panthers played at the Atlanta 7s Festival, Big Ten 7s, and Falcons 7s to play, and beat, DI teams.

“We ran away with the tournament because of our team speed, depth, longer-passing skills, and the style of 7s we have been coached,” said Davenport’s Danielle Ordway, the tournament MVP. “As our captain stated, we have been working for this for nine months. This is our baby; we don't walk away from our baby.

“We went to DI tournaments to play harder competition and kept finishing second,” Ordway added. “We were over getting second place.”

Pool play began with Rugby Northeast runner-up St. Anselm and a 17-0 win. Although the score indicates a solid beginning, Ordway indicated otherwise.

“We came out flat and nervous for our first game of the tournament,” Ordway said. “Bloomsburg was our toughest competition.”

Bloomsburg, the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference champion, was playing in its first serious spring 7s season and impressed with wins over Kutztown during the run-up to the ACRA tournament. Davenport posted a 43-12 win during pool play, but the Pennsylvania side closed the gap in the title bout, losing 29-12.

"Overall I was pleased with their performance," Bloomsburg coach Kevin Castner stated. "We looked to improve with each match, which we did. Full credit to Davenport; they were the better team this weekend. Overall, it turned out to be a memorable first season for us in Division II: We qualified for the Sweet 16s in the fall, won the MARC 7s conference, and finishing second in the ACRA national finals. We are looking to build off this and come back stronger next year."

Stonehill College was also formidable, and Davenport met the Massachusetts team in the semifinals, akin to the 2014 championship. Last year, the Panthers lost 29-5 to Stonehill and missed out a chance on the title. That was not the case today.

“It was a redemptive semifinal win against Stonehill,” Ordway said of the 34-14 victory. “It was nice to see all the improvements of our team from last year to this year. The win gave us confidence and put the past away. Stonehill has some good speed and players, but we took it to them. They could not match the speed, strength, and skill we have this year.”

Stonehill College ended up third after defeating Kutztown in a 12-10 squeaker.

Ordway led her team with 52 points on 10 tries and a conversion, while All American Ashlee Byrge scored 33 points on five tries and four conversions. Hannah Tennant slotted the most extras with seven, while Brittany O’Dell contributed 24 points on four tries and two conversions. Jenn Harig, Melissa Francis, and Taylor Van Langen dotted down two tries apiece.

“The team stepped up when it mattered as a whole,” Ordway said. “We have been working very hard to always have support on runs, and that showed today. I may have earned the MVP award, but I wouldn't have gotten it if my team didn't set me up so well to score.”

Ordway singled out seniors Harig, “an unbelievable player” who suffered a tournament-ending injury in the semifinal; and O’Dell, whom the MVP described as “a beast of a player who sometimes tends to have a 15s mindset, but blows through people and makes awesome runs.”

Like the DI finalists, the 2014-15 season is now over for Davenport, and the Panthers will not be attending USA Rugby’s college 7s championship. Fortunately for Davenport, the season is ending on a very high note.


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