Finals Day at Girls Single-School Championships
Finals Day at Girls Single-School Championships
Divine Savior Holy Angels rode a torrid second-half surge to defeat Rocky Mountain to take the 2023 Girls Single-School National Championships Sunday in Cottage Grove, Wisc.
Played in front of a raucous and generous crowd at the Wisconsin Rugby Complex (the DSHA fans gave Rocky Mountain a huge ovation at the end of the game), the final was the culmination of an intense final day of competition that saw teams from four different states win games on Sunday.
Grandville was dominant in their final game of the tournament, rolling past City Honors 81-5 to take 7th.
Eagle HS out of Idaho came into Sunday’s game still smarting from their quarterfinal loss to the Catholic Memorial. That game was back and forth and perhaps the most exciting of the weekend. It ended in a 26-26 tie and teams were forced to go to kicks. No one likes to decide games via kicks, but decided it was, with Catholic Memorial edging Eagle for a place in the semis.
Eagle bounced back to win their next game and get to the 5th-place final.
There prop Olivia Woods and No. 8 Reece Woods were powerful runners and rattled teeth on defense. Ali Blackburn was a hard worker at flanker while the interior backline of Karlee Allington, Kylie Heichman, and Jordynn LeBeau worked the ball wide nicely.
Going to the boot Eagle set up a nice try early, and smart defense set up a line out wide attack for a try out on the wing. Another kick, chased well and recovered, set up another try. Wings Tommy Stone and Taylor Leone were both dangerous, and Heichman was perfect on her kicks to make it 21-0. A thundering run from Reece Woods set up a chance for Allington, and she blazed through. The kick was good again and it was 28-0 at halftime.
Undaunted, Hamilton kept working and finally got center Jasia Torres in space. She scored two brilliant tries, but by then Eagles was ahead by too much and won 47-14.
Catholic Memorial and Columbia Central battled in the closes game of the day. Catholic took an early lead led by scampery scrumhalf Alexandra Maziuczak and with center Audrey Fryda having an excellent weekend.
(Fun fact: Catholic scored first and as Columbia huddled under the posts Maziuczak slotted the kick and the Columbia players clapped, calling out “good kick.”)
Columbia responded, sparked by the running of Kiyanah Edwards and SaTya Miller, only to see Catholic make it 12-5. With the half winding down Alesia Harris set up Edwards and it was 12-12.
Columbia came out for the second half ready to go and a a quick break and connection between players made it 19-12.
Flanker Tianna McGruder was all over the place, making tackles, running in tight, and running out wide. She capped off a period of pressure and Columbia now was in a relatively commanding position at 24-12.
Not so fast. A smart weakside move from a scrum set up Catholic for a try to make it was once-score game. But a brilliant poach set up Cara Workman for a key try for the Tennessee side. Now it was 31-19.
Catholic finished off, with Maziuczak scoring on a tap penalty move, and she set up Fryda for another.
But time wasn’t Catholic’s friend, and Columbia held on 36-31 in a thriller.
For a Columbia team that was humbled in last year’s event, this was a huge showing—with a large number of new players, they are ready to be a favtor for some time.
Wisconsin’s Divine Savior and Idaho’s Rocky Mountain slammed into each other. Rocky Mountain moved well and the two teams traded try for try. Late in the first half, with the score 10-7 for DSHA, finally Divine Savior got the ball wide and found Flannery O’Keef for a key try.
The second half looked to be more of the same, but an early break from Morales saw her go 60 meters to make it 22-7 Moments later she raced off for another won; she was caught but the ball was sent wide to wing Mary Czarnecki and she made no mistake.
After that much of the game was about defense. With flanker Tobie Dahm, No. 8 Melanie Sanchez, and lock Greta Rehmann working hard in tight making hits and fighting for turnovers, DSHA held on brilliantly.
“Defense wins championships,” said Head Coach John Klein. Many times when DSHA players would make a tackle a coach would call out “that’s not a steal.” The idea, explained Klein, was to remind players to just tackle and reset and make another tackle. If the steal is there, take it, but it’s often not there.
“We just work really hard and play defense. I wished we hadn’t made so many penalties, but I am really, really proud of the girls and what they accomplished."
For Rocky Mountain, getting to the final was a fitting end to a superb season. Due to injuries, inability to travel, and religious restrictions on playing on Sunday, Rocky was without several starters for this final. And yet the players asked to front-up did exactly that.