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Vassar Has Tough Job v Imposing Davenport

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Vassar Has Tough Job v Imposing Davenport

Davenport on the rampage. Steven Zomberg photo.

Will this be another Davenport coronation? 

That has to be the thought going into the women’s DII fall final four. Last year, Davenport strode into Greenville, SC and thundered over, through, and around their opposition to take the title. In the spring, they were denied a full-on final because Tulane, the surprise spring winner, was unable to make that spring-v-fall game. Most get the feeling it wouldn’t have mattered. Davenport crushed the spring #3, USC, and were named, deservedly, national champs.

This year, the Panthers have had a frustrating season because, despite being loaded with freshmen, and despite having lost one of the best collegiate flyhalves in the business, Ashlee Byrge, to a transfer, and despite graduating some of the players that made their pack as imposing as any you might see on a rugby field, they have dominated. Dominated so much that several teams didn’t want to play them. 

Davenport has, this fall, only played eight games, including playoffs. Their only loss was to DI varsity team Notre Dame College, and that game just helped make them better. In their seven wins, the closest opponent was Cincinnati, and Davenport beat them by 50. 

So why is Davenport so dominant? It’s a combination of power and pace. Up front you’ve got prop Veronica Overbeek, and Allison Miedzielec - very strong runners and hard-hitting defenders. In the middle Maddy Teliczan and Hannah Tennant are smart, swift halfbacks, and then out wide they have pace in Dannielle Ordway - the MVP of their fall title run last fall - and Madison Sparks.

All of it is coming together.

The Panthers face off on Saturday at Furman University with Vassar, which hasn’t exactly had to squeak through, either. Vassar is 11-1 , like Davenport losing only to a DI opponent (in this case, West Chester). The Brewers have gone from strength to strength and since that loss logged three shutouts and three more convincing victories. They slammed Vermont 69-0 in the Round of 16, and then had their closest encounter since September 17, a 34-5 win over Albany (that Sept. 17 game was 31-12, and also against Albany). 

Laila Blumenthal-Rothchild scored five tries in those two playoff games, Rachel Elson has 24 on the season, and flanker Nathalie Freeman seems to be everywhere (she scored four on the weekend and has 21 this fall). But it’s more than that, because a lot of teams have a few go-to players.

Head Coach Tony Brown pointed out that last year Darrien Jones and Cierra Thomas combined for 67 tries. They seemed irreplaceable, but they weren’t.

Credit, said Brown, goes to “a collective will as a host of players have worked and are still working to produce team tries. Of 38 Vassar Women players on the roster 31 have scored points this fall. It is a squad that produces a team that can sustain success.”

The big question is, can they sustain it up front against Davenport?