In possibly the most stellar, exciting, comeback victory of the season, the West Chester Golden Ram Women’s Rugby team triumphed over the Princeton Tigers last Sunday to win their third consecutive EPRU crown. This win marked the teams sixth consecutive win over Princeton in the past three years. Princeton was once the dominant, unstoppable force in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union, but since West Chester’s entrance, the upper hand has shifted.
The 32-17 victory was not an easy defeat though, as West Chester went into the half down 17-0, coming out in usual fashion the second half and blowing the opponents away.
West Chester initially had a great start to the game, driving deep into Princeton’s territory, only to miss a tackle on Princeton’s speedy fullback, who took the ball all the way back 95 yards for the first score of the game. After this, the Lady Rams lost their footing, as they “made many mistakes, looked very disjointed and were very impatient with the ball,” Coach Tony DeRemer said.
This lack of fundamentals and organization led to two more interceptions for scores of more than 80 yards and a frustrated team going into the half.
The team needed something from the coach at this point. His message to them was that they “were trying to do too much individually, and [they] needed to settle down and play together as a team and go forward.”
This seemed to do the trick, and “catch us at exactly the right time,” as DeRemer said.
The team scored 32 unanswered points.
West Chester dominated the second half, allowing no points against them and almost doubling the opponent’s score. Megan Lamm played a huge role in the second half, scoring two tries of her own.
“Smart play by scrumhalf Captain Sasha Stauffer led to numerous opportunities and scores for West Chester in the second half,” added DeRemer.
When approached on the key factors to last week’s victory, Stauffer answered with “Teamwork. Definitely teamwork.” She then added, “Lifting. We’re a little team, so we need our muscles.” Stauffer notched a try in the match.
Also contributing to the second half surge were Kate Rada, Erin Furlong (whose try was the game turning score, giving West Chester their first lead of the day), and Drew Groswith.
“It was an exciting game, I was happy to play in it,” senior Erin Furlong, back from a shoulder injury, said.
This second half comeback is nothing new to the women’s rugby team, as that is the story every week. The majority of this year’s victories have come after trailing at the half.
“It was a positive way to end the season emotionally for the team. To win a championship match with a comeback win is very huge for us,” the coach said.
Not only does this win mark the program’s third consecutive championship, but also it puts them in position to once again earn a bid to the National Tournament, where they have impressed for the past three years now.
West Chester is now qualified for the Mid-Atlantic playoffs that will take place in the Spring. This tournament features the top eight teams from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, and will begin in March.
West Chester is the No. 4 seed in the tournament, and will take on Virginia Tech here in West Chester. This will be the most important game of the Spring campaign for the team. The winner of this game will not only make it to the semi-finals of the MARFU playoffs, but earn a spot in the Sweet 16 National Playoffs. The top four teams make it to the Sweet 16.
Virginia Tech did not have an impressive season, winning only three games, but they were able to defeat James Madison University in an important game to earn a sport in the Mid Atlantic playoffs. West Chester has easily overcome JMU the past two seasons to make it to the semi-finals of the MARFU tourney.
If West Chester defeats the Hokies, the next two games of the tournament will determine their seed in the Sweet 16.
“I think it’s going to be an equal match. We’re not going to get the bid to the national championship handed to us,” stated Stauffer on the upcoming game against Virginia Tech.
“We’re defintely ready for them,” captain Erin Furlong said.
Coach DeRemer is very confident in the team overcoming the Hokies in March, as he said “so when we beat VA Tech, that puts us in the Final Four of the Mid Atlantic.”
“I am very excited about the way this team fought at the end this past weekend. They never gave up. This says a lot about their character and their commitment to success. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going into the spring season and develop our vision and skills over the winter break,” DeRemer said looking back on the Fall season.
The team has had a very impressive first half of their season. Hopefully they can work hard in the off season and come out in the spring, ready to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Ryan Frisco is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.