Pennsylvania Wins Pitt RCT
Pennsylvania Wins Pitt RCT
Pennsylvania kept the Regional Cup Tournament trophy at home, defeating Ohio and Virginia on day one, and overcoming Indiana 22-19 in the waning moments of the Pittsburgh final.
“I’d say what set us apart this weekend was our speed and a few forwards who were able to get the team going forward when they needed to,” Pennsylvania coach Tony DeRemer reflected on the two days of competition. “Alex Pogorzelski, Emy Booz, Dorina Roe, and Sophie Pyrz provided some speed and quickness in the backline, but Daz Williams really showcased our speed this weekend. Also, Akweley Okine, Janice Lu and Hannah Moran were hard to bring down as forwards and provided a lot of go-forward for the team when we needed it.”
Pennsylvania needed some time to find its chemistry and got past first-round opponent Ohio with a close 22-10 victory. The team really started to gel against then-defending champion Virginia, as hooker Lu, No. 8 Moran, and center Pogorzelski helped propel the team to a 33-10 victory. But even more impressive was wing Williams, who started piquing the field’s interest with her long runs on the outside.
“Daz’s scores were all over 60 or 65 meters, and most of them were around defenders,” DeRemer said. “She’s very fast and athletic, but she’s only been playing rugby for six months. She’ll be one to watch in the future.”
On the other side of the bracket, Indiana held off a very good Empire City (New Jersey/New York City) team 10-7, and then opened it up against Maryland 54-0 to qualify for the final.
“We knew going in that they had lots of size on us,” DeRemer reported. “Their No. 8 and second rows were tall, fit, and loved to run the ball and gain ground for the Indiana. They liked to commit numbers to the ruck offensively and defensively, which might be an advantage to us if we could get quick ball. With the speedy backs we had, we knew that we might be able to cut up the short numbers on defense or get around them.”
Williams broke free to score a long try along the sideline, putting Pennsylvania up 5-0. But then Indiana answered back, relying on its size and tough pick-and-goes to run in one converted try, and then took advantage of Pennsylvania penalties for a second, 14-5.
Just before the half, Williams broke through several tackles for a 60-meter centered try, 14-10 Indiana.
The second half saw both sides lean on their strengths – Indiana gained yardage through its strong attack runners, while Pennsylvania returned the favor with Harvard commit Akweley Okine, Lu, Moran, and Penn State commit flyhalf Sophie Pyrz. Halfway through the half, Lu drove over for the team’s third try and go-ahead points, 15-14.
Indiana used the rest of the game to get back into scoring position, and with three minutes on the clock, the Midwesterners retook the lead with an unconverted try, 19-15.
Pennsylvania bobbled the subsequent restart and then surrendered a penalty deep in its end. At this juncture, a penalty kick would have added some cushion to Indiana’s lead, but keeping the ball in hand and running the clock was also a valid strategy. Indiana opted for the latter, and Pennsylvania eventually wrestled away control.
With less than a minute remaining, Pyrz cleared the ball to Pennsylvania’s 35 meter, and the Indiana pursuers collided as they attempted to gather the ball. Williams was on the chase, too, and she caught the ball on her knee, ran two full strides clutching it to her leg, and then scooped it up into her arms for a 60-meter sprint. Pennsylvania took a 22-19 lead, and although the restart did occur, a knock-on ended the match immediately afterward.
Williams’ clutch efforts were recognized by the RCT committee, but the host SRO singled out Pyrz.
“We gave Sophie our MVP Award for Pennsylvania because she led the team through the weekend as our #10, but she is not a true flyhalf,” DeRemer explained. “She played #10 a bit this season for Doylestown, but she is normally a wing/fullback. For us to win the tournament without a true flyhalf commands a lot of respect for the girl who ran the offense for us. Sophie was also a co-captain of the team with Paige Krahling, and they both did a great job communicating with the team, and imparting their leadership into the program.”
The competition as a whole was a solid affair. None of the games turned into runaway wins, which were seen at other venues around the country.
“The caliber of opponents at this tournament is great,” DeRemer said. “We were challenged at every match, and no one opponent is so much better than anyone else that it became a blowout. Kurt Mockenhaupt does a great job of bringing in quality teams from all over the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, and I think it’s a great challenge for our players to stay in the top tier of teams that are competing.”