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Humboldt Starts With 2 Pt Win

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Humboldt Starts With 2 Pt Win

A closing-minutes try awarded Humboldt the two-point victory. (Megan McFerrin photo)

Humboldt entered its toughest league match under less-than-ideal circumstances. A month into the West Coast DII season, the reigning champion had yet to play a game due to cancellations and forfeits. Saturday opponent UN Reno, however, already had three wins to its credit. Reno was also propelled by revenge: The last time these two teams met, Humboldt overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to win by 16 points.

“We knew that Reno is a strong, hard-hitting team,” Humboldt coach Evi Ashenbrucker stated. “They had a few specific strengths that gave us trouble last year, so we trained to beat them in those areas. We also knew that because of our comeback win last season we were a team they were probably training hard to beat as well, and it was going to be tough match for both sides.”

Ashenbrucker, a former UCSD All American and San Diego Surfer, drilled her team on the practice pitch but also reinforced her players’ mentality during the week preceding the match.

“I told the girls [that we had] to take one single moment, together as a team, to acknowledge that slight disadvantage one time,” the coach explained. “And then it was time to turn the page, step up and play our game, and that is exactly what we did. … As far as our ability to come out hard, confident and sharp from the get-go, I could not be prouder of these girls.”

Reno was ready, too, and the sides battered each other evenly for the entirety of the match. The focus and execution of both teams was on point, and unforced errors were held to a minimum.

“Both sides played a high-pressure defense,” Ashenbrucker explained. “They were able to disrupt our backline's offensive attack because of their aggressive defense, and it took us a little while to make the adjustments. Once we did and began pushing the pace offensively, we were able to put together more phases and break through their otherwise solid line.”

Humboldt’s forwards were hard-running and fit, pushing through the scrums, in support and in the breakdowns for a full 80 minutes.

“Rucking is an area we really needed to focus on going into this match, and I saw huge improvements in that, so I was very pleased,” Ashenbrucker added.

Humboldt led by a try with five minutes remaining, until Reno hit a gap in the defense for a try and three-point lead, 36-33.

Unfazed, Humboldt restarted the ball and pressured the receiver into turning over the ball. With a scrum deep in Reno’s end, the forwards took over and barreled their way to the try line. Freshman Libby Treu, who was the epitome of go-forward, dotted down the final try for the two-point lead and win, 38-36.

“Neither team ever let up on the pace or intensity,” Ashenbrucker said. “It was such a hard-fought match, and I have a lot of respect for the Reno team. I believe that both sides truly left everything on the field that game.

“I could not be prouder of the heart they showed,” the coach said of her players. “They were just relentless until the final whistle blew and not a single Humboldt girl ever gave up.”

Both teams have the goods to continue into the post-season, so long as further forfeits don’t hamper the teams’ development. Humboldt is scheduled to play the SF BATS next weekend, while Reno will face St. Mary’s.

In other West Coast news, UC Santa Cruz defeated Fresno State 65-0; Sacramento State beat St. Mary's 50-12; and Santa Clara topped SF BATS 53-31.