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UCONN Wins DI Fall Title

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UCONN Wins DI Fall Title

Photo courtesy USA Rugby

Connecticut held off a second-half comeback to defeat Air Force 19-12 for the Women’s DI Fall Championship title. UCONN will now compete for the national championship against the DI spring champion on May 7.

It took 36 minutes before the scoreboard ticked over. UCONN employed the boot of flyhalf Nikki Sills to keep Air Force on the retreat and leaned on its aggressive forwards to exert pressure. Air Force was burdened by penalties, but played valiant defense that repeatedly rebuffed the Huskies’ attack repeatedly. Most impressively, the Colorado Springs side stifled UCONN’s best scoring opportunities about 10 minutes in. With a yellow card leaving the team short-handed, Air Force held up a dive-over attempt and forced a backline knock-on to end the threat.

UCONN had its revenge with four minutes remaining in the half. Wing Deven Gold had put her side in good position, and Air Force committed a penalty in Sills’ range. The halfback’s kick sailed wide, but UCONN chased down the ball quickly. Air Force gathered the ball cleanly but fumbled possession while attempting to run out of its end. UCONN hooker Sofia Gonzalez was there for the pick-up and try, and Sills made good on the conversion, 7-0.

The Falcons got a boost into the break, using the remaining minutes to work downfield and test the UCONN goal-line defense. Air Force was held up in the try zone, but it was only a matter of time before the team was rewarded for its tireless efforts.

That effort would be tested as UCONN began the second stanza with another try. From a UCONN scrum on Air Force’s 22 meter, Sills split the defense to score beneath the posts, 12-0.

As the fourth quarter approached, Air Force enjoyed some good continuity in UCONN’s end. After some good go-forward from hooker Yaira Diaz, lock Jocelyn Fordyce put her team on the board with Air Force’s first try, and No. 8 Lauren Fortney added the extras, 12-7.

Minutes later, the Falcons pushed the attack wide and sent wing Brianna Martinez into the try zone for the tying points, 12-all.

UCONN needed to squash the momentum that Air Force was now enjoying and responded with a drive to the goal line. Air Force earned its second yellow card of the match and Fortney was sent off at the 69th minute. The Huskies then quick-tapped from the mark and prop Amanda Lazarus dove over for the go-ahead points. Sills added the conversion for the 19-12 lead.

There was plenty of time left in regulation, but UCONN steadied its defense and got more help from Air Force’s penalties. Connecticut held on for the win and booked its ticket to the national championship in the spring.

Click here for the full DI fall brackets.