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SoCal Duel in DII Spring Final

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SoCal Duel in DII Spring Final

UC Riverside shoots for the spring title against a familiar opponent. (Photo: Derek Lucero)

Southern California is the big winner in tomorrow’s women’s DII college spring championship, as CSU Northridge and UC Riverside advance to the title bout. The victor will compete against Notre Dame College on May 9 at Kennesaw State (Ga.) for the national championship.

Northridge took on Florida International, which returned to the spring final four for the second consecutive year, it today’s DII semifinal. The SoCal champ played a well rounded game and eliminated the South Independent champ 27-5. Riverside followed and took on Mid-Atlantic champion Salisbury. After scoring a quick try, Salisbury took a 12-10 lead during the first quarter.

“The first try went in a little too easy, so maybe they got a little too confident right off the bat,” UC Riverside coach Roger Light said. “Salisbury is a solid team. They got pissed – for lack of a better word – and came back strong. We were humbled. But from [the lead change] on, we picked up the pace and everything started to click. There was good support from the forwards; the backs were finding the holes and rucking their own ball; the flankers were coming through; and the props were picking-and-going and just running 20-30 yards.”

Salisbury got into some penalty trouble, and No. 8 Kathryn Todorovich was sent to the bin.

“She was a vital part of their team,” Light observed. “She was a good-sized gal, and would just pick up and run. It’d take four or five girls to bring her down. So when she got sidelined, that opened up the door for two scores, and it took a little wind out of their sails.”

Riverside went into the break up 25-12.

“We were feeling good at half – not that our work was over. We knew they could score at any time, but it was nice to be up,” Light added.

Salisbury kept pummeling Riverside, hoping to use its size to break the California side, but the smaller SoCal squad stayed strong. Riverside had found its rhythm and more than doubled its point total in the second half, sending Brenda Sam, Lisa Umeh, Domo Belenger, Michelle Hong, and Alysia Jones across for tries and the 56-24 win.

“We’re worried,” Light looked ahead to the final. “Northridge is a quality team; we watched them against Florida International, and they looked solid. If both teams have their best day tomorrow, it’s going to be a good game. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win.”

Light confessed that his team was rooting for FIU in the semifinals, but only because Riverside wanted to travel to Pittsburgh and play a squad that it had never seen before.

“It steals a little bit away from the national title, playing someone in your own league,” Light said. “We want to go home and say we played someone from Florida, someone from Maryland. Nothing against Northridge as a team, but it’s about feeling like you accomplished something around the United States.

“Some of the girls feel like this is fate,” Light added, “because this is the team that beat us earlier in the season. There’s absolutely a sense of redemption.”

The DII spring final will be contested at 12:45 p.m. EDT.