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Fitness Defines Rutgers' Opening Win

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Fitness Defines Rutgers' Opening Win

Rutgers is working to fill voids left by players like All American Kristen Siano.

Tri-State opened up its women’s college season this weekend, seeing four DII matches take place alongside three DII hybrid/NSCRO games. The traditional DII leaders – Rutgers and Vassar – won on the road, while Marist and Hofstra also started the fall in good form.

In advance of Rutgers’ opener, coach Ken Pape corralled the team veterans for a goal-setting session. The team had lost 10 starters, and the coach wanted to gauge the players’ expectations for the upcoming season. The leadership decided that it wants to first advance to playoffs, then win Tri-States, and also advance to the fall Final Four.

“I asked them what they were prepared to do to get there, and they said, ‘We’ll do whatever it takes,” Pape remembered.

So the team implemented a player-led fitness program three days per week. For accessibility purposes, there are two sessions per day – morning and evening  and players must attend one on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Pape, who spent the summer in the USA Rugby Emerging Coach Pathway and was selected to both National All Star Competition staffs, can focus trainings on rugby alone. The payoff was realized in Sunday’s 32-20 win over Albany.

“We won that game because of attrition,” Pape explained. “We ran Albany all over the field for 25 minutes, and they were exhausted after that.”

Those first 25 minutes, however, was a slug fest, and the home team scored first.

“Albany has some good ball players,” Pape praised. “Big girls – especially at prop and second row – who are fast and run the ball really well. They came right out of the gate, and my girls were catching the hit rather than delivering it. But we were resilient. Three minutes after Albany scored, we scored, and applied immense pressure. We also have a new defensive structure that will help us going forward.”

Ashley Allen and Shai Hodges did the work on the scoreboard. Both are young players: Allen joined in late spring, while Hodges enters her second fall season, having played behind an All American last year. Hodges moved from second row to No. 8, and the result was three tries on the day. Allen scored twice.

But Pape was especially proud of the new halfback combo of Emily Stuart and Keneavy Krenzin. Stuart joined in late spring, having never played rugby before, and handled the pivotal position with poise, especially against the aggressive, larger Albany pack. Krenzin, a senior who had played in the back three, kept the ball moving from flyhalf, never trying to do too much with the ball herself.

Albany never slackened in effort and scored four tries, including the game-ender. Pape expects to see the upstate New York team late in the post-season. Up next is Siena, which dropped a 31-12 contest to Hofstra Saturday.

“Siena has a good tradition of being one of those ‘thorn in the side’ teams,” Pape said. “They’re always in every game. We’re focusing our preparation on them and not looking too far ahead.”

But if Pape and team were to look ahead, then it’s the Oct. 11 game against Hofstra that has the highest probability of determining the top seed out of Tri-State’s South pool.

North pool favorite Vassar bettered Stony Brook 55-5 yesterday. The Brewers ran out to a 43-0 halftime lead, made some changes at the break, but then struggled to keep continuity through the final 40. By game’s end, senior Cierra Thomas recorded a hat trick, captain Darienne Jones dotted down twice, and Jyen Wong, Laila Blumenthal-Rothchild, Lauren Workman, and rookie Rachel Jones all scored a try apiece. Mary Margaret McElduff added five conversions.

Marist bettered Fairfield 34-10 in the fourth DII league match. Within the hybrid pool, Molloy beat Drew 28-0, New Paltz defeated Fordham 27-0, and Montclair State topped Bard 36-12.

This weekend’s matchups:
Fairfield @ Vassar
Stony Brook @ Marist
Siena @ Rutgers
Albany @ Hofstra
Fordham @ Molloy
Bard @ New Paltz
Drew @ Montclair St.