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Vassar Dominates ACRA Final, But ACRA a Winner Too

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Vassar Dominates ACRA Final, But ACRA a Winner Too

A team virtually untouched.

Vassar College's domination of the women's ACRA competition was complete on Saturday as eviscerated Temple 74-5.

Temple found no justice in anything they tries. Kick out of your own 22 and fullback Vivika Sheppard is there to burn you and either score (she got two) or set up her embarrassment of riches in terms of talented teammates.

Pound it up the middle and run into Kira Nolan and Lauren Thompson at center or Halle Hutchinson and Hannah Charlson at flanker.

Try to find some width? Sorry, Sheppard, Kasey Drake, and Zoe Lynch were too quick.

Vassar's teamwork was excellent. They made it very tough for Temple to get out of their half, and they had breakaway pace. Captain and No. 8 Emily Howell scored "only" three tries—that's below average for her as she recorded 37 in 12 games this year. And she did it often in the open field, showing she was more physical and probably faster than just about everyone on the field.

Temple, which got good performances from No. 8 Miranda Kelly, scrumhalf Genevieve Cohen, and center Jade Senior,  will learn from this. They are a young team building. For Vassar this was a nice final exam that they passed with flying colors. The best women's D2 team in the country? Probably. There are some teams we might see in the spring. But really they are the class of ACRA, and the game. Their rucking is excellent because they acknowledge that they don't have a ton of size, so they send five to eight players over the ball every phase. That means everyone has to be able to run, but it also means many times those in the ruck don't have to be especially physical—the sheer weight of numbers overwhelms the opposition.

In addition, when they are working the phases, Vassar always seems to have a group of three ready to go on the open side, and another striding around the back of the ruck to the weak side. As a result anyone who gets the ball is usually moving, either forward, or a little sideways and then forward. It's a basic tenet of rugby that many have forgotten—movement is queen.

And classiest of all? While there were many great players we noticed two—scrumhalf Julia Busby was the player who made those phases work. It's been said that the scrumhalf has to be the fittest player on the team and certainly Busby was that. She was rarely absent from the back of the ruck and, more crucially, rarely late. So Vassar was winning rucks and Busby was right there to pass it and move the play. Temple, and, to be honest, most teams, couldn't keep up.

Our other heroin was Asia Baker at prop. She dominated the tight contact area, was a scrumming machine, and made key carries.  Standing tall in more ways than one, Carter was one player who could win ball all on her own.

Vassar College Women's Rugby: 11 Wins, 1 Loss. (only loss to NIRA DIII champion Bowdoin 26-17)
Points for: 618 (includes a 28-0 forfeit win), average 51.5
Points against: 97, average 8.1

The ACRA revitalization was a rousing success. Conference managed to get seasons played despite some COVID obstacles. The playoffs held at Vassar and then the final at the Mecklenberg Sportsplex in Matthews, NC, were enjoyable and competitive—the semifinal scores were 36-20 and 19-17, and Coast Guard (who lost to Vassar 36-20 in the semis) won their QF by one point. The inclusion of the Rocky Mountain teams was a success, with School of Mines being the team that pushed Coast Guard, and Colorado Mesa a strong opponent for Temple. Quietly doing their own thing, ACRA is winning.