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Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart Win Key Close NIRA Games

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Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart Win Key Close NIRA Games

Rob Rasmussen photo.

Quinnipiac defeated Army 22-17 to tighten its grip on a semifinal place in the NIRA Women's NCAA DI competition.

The Bobcats and the Black Knights traded the momentum back and forth throughout the first half. Army scored right off the kickoff—Olivia Popp intercepted a Quinnipiac pass to race in under the posts before 30 seconds had ticked away. But Quinnipiac responded nicely with a try from Anna Van Dyk, and midway through the first half Fódhla Ní Bhraonáin's penalty goal nudged the Bobcats ahead 8-7. 

Quinnipiac built on that lead when Kat Storey went over and Ní Bhraonáin converted to make it 15-7. Sophia Linder's try brought Army back within a score and Alissa Eisenhart's conversion made it 15-14 at halftime.

But Army would not cross the tryline again. Storey crossed in the second half and then Quinnipiac held Army to just one penalty from Eisenhart to seal it 22-17.

For Quinnipiac Head Coach Becky Carlson, junior Alise Kayser was an unsung hero for the team.

"Her pace and control of the game helped us in frantic moments when Army’s pressure was at its highest," Carlson said of the Canadian. "The Cadets were relentless at the rucks and the team responded to her demand for more bodies and quicker support at the breakdown. Her leadership was key."

Also providing a big performance was sophomore lock Kelsey Thomas. She was excellent in set piece and was vigilant and active in the open field.

"Everyone who is familiar with the NIRA brand of ball and its teams knows that Army traditionally gets better as they go deeper into the season," added Calrson. "Army’s players fought us as expected, and it was a great match. The Army that you face in September is traditionally nothing like the Army that NIRA sees in October. I tip my hat to [Army Head Coach Bill LeClerc] as a service academy coach for developing his players who just come off of cadet summer and go right into league play in September."

Quinnipiac has improved as well. Tough losses to Harvard and Dartmouth fueled the Bobcats, forcing them to improve.

"We learned far more from those games and grew," added Carlson.

A look at the stats analysis for Quinnipiac shows some of the standouts:

Van Dyk, joining Thomas in the second row, had 14 carries and led the team with 17 tackles and three turnovers won. No. 8 Gracie Cartwright was the best offensive threat with six carries for an impressive 55 meters, including two line breaks. She had defensive prowess, too, making 14 tackles.

Flanker Riva Van Der Valk logged eight carries for 46 meters, and five defenders beaten, and added 18 tackles.

Also victorious in NIRA DI was Sacred Heart. The Pioneers improved to 4-1 with a 14-11 victory over Navy. Two tries from Reese Torticil staked SHU to a 14-3 lead and they held on during a Navy comeback. 

With those two teams winning, and Brown not playing an in-conference game (they defeated Penn State 31-17), the top four remains Harvard, Dartmouth, Sacred Heart, and Quinnipiac. SHU and QU may be a little closer in the conference Power Ratings—Quinnipiac will likely stand part on the offensive and defensive aspects pf the ratings, while a win over a strong Army side gives them a strength-of-schedule bump. SHU's offensive rating drops a little (while their excellent defensive rating remains excellent), but a win over a slightly lower-ranked Navy might cost them. Either way, it looks as if those two teams will face off with Harvard and Dartmouth (or Dartmouth and Harvard) in the semifinals in a few weeks.