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Notre Dame College Wins Women NCR D1 Quarterfinal Over Iowa State

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Notre Dame College Wins Women NCR D1 Quarterfinal Over Iowa State

Notre Dame College vs Iowa State in Saturday's Quarterfinal. Alex Goff photo.

Notre Dame College finished strong and rode a power scrum to defeat a talented Iowa State squad to advance to the NCR D1 Women's College semifinals Friday in Elkhart, Ind.

The Falcons, who made the D1 final last year only to fall to Michigan, rebounded from a couple of impressive breakaway tries from the Cyclones to set up a Sunday semifinal with Indiana.

Notre Dame College kicked off and put Iowa State under some significant pressure early on. The Falcons pressured and pressured and finally forced a turnover. Prop Alivia Leatherman, fresh off earning her first cap for the USA, then powered through several defenders to thunder over for a try and a 5-0 lead.

Back on their heels, ISU tried to exit and struggled to do so, but they didn't cave and eventually a quick kick from inside center Ivy Lawson got them out of trouble.

But NDC kept at it and targeted ISU's scrum, trying to win one against the head to regain the momentum. They came close twice before finally getting the ball, and, in fact, a penalty. Scrumhalf Rosa Treece tapped quickly, put her head down, and was over to make it 10-0.

"That's one of my favorite things to do," said Treece, who certainly enjoyed pushing the pace. "You know, just get my head in there and score. Those quick taps near the tryline I always try to take them as quick as I can."

But Iowa State wasn't going to let Notre Dame College pull too far away. They worked to sent it wide and showcased some good passing to do that. Going from sideline to sideline they stretched NDC's defense and that opened up a chance for fullback Paige Bantner to speed in for a try.

AS happened throughout the game, Notre Dame College responded right after giving up points. A powerful run from center Hannah Mitchell Got them inside the 22, and while Iowa State was able to wrest the ball back, their attempted clearance kick went almost directly up. No. 8 Lucy Leatherman came racing in to catch that ball on the fly in a very athletic play and kept going to score, making it 15-5.

Both teams did well to halt promising movements by the other. Iowa State was quick on the ball and forced turnovers when the Falcons were slow to support, while Notre Dame College's counterruck often regain possession for them.

A long kick ahead by Alivia Leatherman was dropped by Iowa State and NDC regained possession. Center Maizie Kies ran on and was almost to the line. Once again Iowa State's desperate defense was there to prevent a try. But the Cyclones were penalized and over the Falcons went on a tap move to make it 20-5. The first half ended with no further scoring.

Early in the second half Iowa State tok a page out of NDC's book, using patient defense and a turnover in the opposing 22 to set a try—outside center Grace Kelly skated around the NDC defensive front and went in at the corner to make it 20-10. 

But NDC took the momentum back, working methodically and carefully through the phases before Alivia Leatherman tapped and charged through for the try. Her sister converted and it was 27-10.

After that ISU tighthead prop Sally Laybourn, who had been a problem for NDC with her carries in traffic, was sin-binned for a high tackle in what seemed a somewhat harsh punishment. 

But Rugby Justice is blind and after NDC's ensuing lineout throw was not straight, Iowa State attacked off the scrum deep in their half. Flyhalf Maddy McVey put on a sidestep and took off, going over 70 meters to score a team that cut NDC's lead to 27-15. It was a key momentum shift and McVey almost went over again, sidestepping several Notre Dame College defenders trying to find the tryline.

But NDC stopped giving up damaging penalties—such as not rolling away—and embraced being more patient on attack. Three times in the latter part of the second half they worked the phases down for tries. In amongst those ISU wing Paiven Knoot intercepted a pass to score, but certainly NDC finished stronger.

Patience, especially on defense, said Head Coach Vanessa Marsh, was key for the Falcons in the second half. Their scrum was dominant and made life difficult for an Iowa State team that certainly had the pace and skill to score from long range.

Laybourn was an important factor for Iowa State in taking the ball up in the middle, and McVey was special.

For Notre Dame College, both Leathermans were influential and certainly when the Falcons needed go-forward or to just finish off a try, Alivia LEatherman was there to accommodate. Treece was scrapped and kept the attack flowing and flyhalf Kelly Wallenhorst made smart decisions.