West Chester’s NCAA Division I women’s rugby team took on Shippensburg Saturday afternoon to decide which team would win the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union regular season championship.The winner of that title would earn the No. 1 seed in the upcoming EPRU tournament in November. Last season, West Chester fell to Shippensburg in a hard fought battle. This season is Shippensburg’s first year as a NCAA Division I team and their first as a part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union.
Coming into the match up, West Chester was riding a high off of their first set of back-to-back wins of the season. The past two weekends they had beaten Maryland and Princeton, both by significant margins, and were ready to take on Shippensburg.
Saturday afternoon was not the typical weather expected for most sports to play in, but it made the perfect atmosphere for any legitimate rugby team. A steady, wind driven rain sprayed consistently in the faces of both teams, as they slipped and slid their way up and down the muddy south campus field.
The game was a low scoring affair, much like the game West Chester played against Delaware, where they lost a heartbreaker 6-5, despite not giving up a try. The first half went scoreless for West Chester, unable to break the trizone line.
Shippensburg put up one try in the first half. With the successful conversion, they went into halftime with a 7-0 lead. That is nothing to feel safe about though when playing West Chester’s Lady Ram squad. Last season in the EPRU championship game against Princeton, West Chester came back from a 17-5 deficit at the half to win the game 32-17, scoring 27 unanswered points.
Unfortunately though, the story was not the same for the Golden Rams this time, as they only managed one try in the second half. That score, along with the conversion, gave WCU seven points, but that would not even be enough to send the game into overtime. Shippensburg added their own try in the half as well, holding off the Rams for the rest of the game, and solidifying the victory, 14-7.
With the win, Shippensburg clinched the EPRU regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. West Chester will be the third of four seeds in the tournament, and will be playing Shippensburg in the first round. The team is not all that worried about that game, even after losing this past week.
“Does Ship deserve to go to nationals? No,” Maddie Kriebel said. “That’s why we’re going to fix the little things these next two weeks and prove why we’re Division I and why we’re the better team.”
The rugby team’s biggest struggles in the past have been the little things, such as passing, tackling, and communication. It’s the fundamentals of the game that are the most important to have nailed down.
“We need to just clean up our game and get in the winning mentality,” Devon Tucker said. “It’s a lot of little things, but I know we can get it together in time for EPRU’s.”
If West Chester does indeed get by Shippensburg on Nov. 7, they will most likely take on Delaware for the cherished EPRU crown. Delaware is the team that West Chester is the most worried about, and they are hungry to get back at them after their heartbreaking defeat.
“After we beat Ship, we will most likely play them [Delaware] for the championship,” Kriebel said. “They’re pretty physical, but we’re going to come out harder and stronger.”
West Chester now has a couple of weeks off before they take on Shippensburg in the tournament. They will work hard over that span to perfect all of the fundamentals and really grow into a unified force on the field.
Ryan Frisco is a third-year student majoring in Communication studies. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.