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McGruder Four-Fer Sparks Indiana Over Virginia

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McGruder Four-Fer Sparks Indiana Over Virginia

Shaianne McGruder sets up a try for flyhalf Deisdy Rodriguez, but also crossed the tryline four times herself. Alex Goff photo.

Paced by a pretty nifty backline and four tries from outside center Shaianne McGruder, Indiana defeated the University of Virginia 31-15 in the NCR Women’s D1 quarterfinals in Elkhart, Ind.

In a game that was most certainly back-and-forth, McGruder’s pace, and the timing of her tries were the difference.

The game began with Indiana kicking off and chasing nicely to keep the ball in UVA’s half. Once IU got the ball back, McGruder took off and went wide to score in the opening moments. Indiana looked to build on that lead with a penalty goal, but missed. And in fact, UVA used that to get out of trouble, working their way to midfield and when Indiana was penalized, scrumhalf Clare Turney tapped and almost made it to the tryline. IU’s cover defense was there but the Cavs swarmed in and sent the ball wide. Eventually center Carrie Morrison galloped through several defenders to go over in the corner to tie it 5-5.

Quickly Indiana answered. Off a scrum they ran a planned play that put McGruder through the middle. She then offloaded nicely (see main photo above) to flyhalf Deisdy Rodriguez to go in under the posts. Conversion good and it was 12-5. 

Once again Virginia responded, once again helped along by penalties. The forwards worked it close to the line and tighthead prop Taylor Wreath crashed over.

Both teams had chances to score in the remainder of the first half. Virginia No. 8, Carson Crenshaw and Indiana lock Mary Akers both put in a lot of work and made some key tackles. But the scoring chances didn’t yield points because of stern defense and some execution breakdowns at key moments. 

Virginia centers Morrison and Lib Abbey worked together nicely on a counter-attack, but were stopped just short of the line.

So the second half started with the score 12-10 for Indiana, and within seconds it had changed. Indiana kicked off and got the ball back; from the next ruck McGruder picked up and sped around the weak side. Virginia was caught unawares and Caris Brown’s conversion on a difficult angle made it 19-10. 

Virginia’s response was a break down the sideline but McGruder raced in to make the try-saving tackle. Moments later she was breaking through for her third try and Indiana led by two converted tries at 24-10.

A brilliant breakthrough from Virginia fullback Helen LiQuiao had her through and around all but one; Brown took her down. Stymied on two prime try-scoring chances, UVA then saw McGruder’s heels one more time as she took a ball flat-footed, fended off a defender, and was off for her fourth.

Brown hit the kick and it was all over save for a try in the corner from the Cavs at the end. 

“I get the ball and I just think ‘run’,” said McGruder. But she was much more than that. Virginia had many of the pieces but are young, and perhaps a year away from taking that next step. For Head Coach Vaughn Mitchell’s IU side, they play fast and aggressive to overcome their lack of size. Only lock Mary Akers really has much height, but they all have work ethic and most have a ton of speed.

Next up for Indiana is Notre Dame College Sunday in the semifinals.