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NDC vs Michigan Part Deux in NCR Women D1 Final

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NDC vs Michigan Part Deux in NCR Women D1 Final

Lucy Leatherman charges ahead for NDC. Alex Goff photo.

It will be a 2022 rematch in the final of the NCR Women's D1 playoffs.

Notre Dame College and Michigan will face off once more.

In 2022 NDC came in thinking they could dominate up front and use their more unified game plan to win. But Michigan's own brand of unity saw them through, and with a supremely quick set of outside backs, led by Ember Larson at fullback, they won the title. Hit by illness which slowed them down, NDC remembers that weekend rather vividly.

"Don't get sick," was how to win this time, said prop Alivia Leatherman, who is a capped Eagle as a junior. 

This weekend was a bit of a rehearsal for the Falcons, as they controlled a couple of teams with some speedy backs, Iowa State and Indiana.

Notre Dame College Wins Women NCR D1 Quarterfinal Over Iowa State

Indiana's center Shaianne McGruder scored four tries in the quarterfinal against Virginia so NDC set her opposite number, Maizie Kies, to take care of her. Early on IU showed how that happened when they opted for a kick to posts on a penalty deep in the NDC 22. IU did have other weapons—lock Mary Akers chief among them. But NDC's Leatheman combo—Alivia at prop and Lucy at No. 8, led a forward effort that dominated the right play. 

McGruder did burn NDC once, taking the ball on a turnover in the ruck and cutting upfield for a long-range run. But she didn't run rampant the way she had against Virginia. NDC does have attackers out wide, too, and used them to get NDC back on the attack in the second half, setting up Alivia Leatherman to finish off with her second. And ten KIes actually equalized McGruder in tries, showing she, too, can pin her ears back and head for the corner. Notre Dame College 27 Indiana 13.


Michigan, meanwhile, had quite a bit of trouble with an improved Northern Iowa side, coming away victors, but only 22-15. 

Wolverines Head Coach Jamie Frech said that she felt her side was in control in their win over Southern Nazarene (30-20) and Northern Iowa, but it was still close.

"While I did sweat it out a bit in the last 10 minutes vs UNI, we played our game, we stuck to our plan, and we won," said Frech. "The biggest challenge going into Sunday versus UNI was injury-related. We had to shift our roster a bit, but I'm grateful to our bench for really stepping up."

What also hurt Michigan was penalties. They were hit with several yellow cards and one was especially difficult because they had just cleared their bench and couldn't sub in anyone to adjust for the loss. The Michigan players did in fast figure it out.

"The good news is our defense is really solid and we knew we needed to trust one another and play team rugby to ensure UNI didn't get another score," explained Frech. "I'm so proud of the team for locking in early and keeping pressure on, regardless of the headwinds we faced.   We are balanced, supportive, and ready for the next chapter."

So this will be a rematch, but both teams are a little different. They also match up well in that their bread and butter is a little different—the forwards for NDC and the backs for Michigan. Payback for Notre Dame College? Well, it's not that easy.

Final Note: Frech had some positive words for NCR. In 2022 the women's playoffs were held at the same venue and same date with the men's DII playoffs. It was, said Frech, "a bit more chaotic."

NCR heard the feedback and changed it up, making this weekend just about the women.

"I really appreciated the full attention of the staff and focus on the women's game. The NCR took our feedback and implemented it, so it's been a very good experience for our teams to be promoted and supported by our league."