The West Chester women’s rugby team went into Saturday afternoon being the only team with an undefeated record in NCAA sanctioned play. They would leave the field cold, wet, muddy, and handed their first NCAA loss, at the hands of Eastern Illinois (4-0). The careless, basic mistakes that had haunted the girls in their first two games finally came back to bite them in their 38-5 defeat.
Last season, West Chester became one of four NCAA teams in the country, and played in the first NCAA sanctioned game in women’s rugby history- against Eastern Illinois. This exciting match came down to the very end, as West Chester slid by 20-19, jumping into the record books forever. One could imagine this was a difficult loss for the team to take in.
The game just never went West Chester’s way, as only two minutes in, a Panther back made a thirty yard sprint for the games first try. Ten minutes into the game, Eastern Illinois had accumulated 21 points. The Lady Rams would go into the half down 31-0 and without senior captain Erin Furlong, who separated her shoulder only 20 minutes in.
While West Chester was able to hold the opponents to only one try in the second half, they only managed one themselves, coming from captain Sasha Stauffer, thanks to some magnificent blocking from the forwards.
The Panthers were “super fast” according to Ali Vandermay. Their star player, Samantha Manto, who scored three tries in the game, was an All-American track star in high school.
They were breaking free all over the field, with four runs for over 30 yards in the match! Although this was a big factor in the defeat, along with the wet, slippery field conditions, the girls are still struggling with the same problems as the first two games, the basics.
With a lot of new, inexperienced girls on the team, and not a lot of time before the season to practice and learn the game, it is expected that little mistakes will happen on the field. This could consist of many things, like choosing the right options when passing the ball, or choosing who to run with down the field to give you the best chance at getting the farthest before being tackled.
Also, the team is struggling with missing a lot of tackles, something that cannot happen on a regular basis. One other thing plaguing the team this year is its turnovers. They cannot consistently turn the ball over in a game.
The girls got by the first two games victorious because the teams they played lacked the talent to take advantage of these mistakes. On Saturday, Eastern Illinois capitalized on every little mishap by the Golden Rams and literally ran with it.
Furlong echoes the same thing that has been preached since the beginning of the season, saying “we really need to pull everything together.”
“The officials were a lot better [then last week].” states Drew Groswith, “but we were expecting to win big like last time.”
Meg Lamm commented on the girls late drive, saying, “the second half we really pulled though.and showed some heart.”
This upcoming week of practice will be huge for the WCU squad, as they have Penn State looming ahead of them Saturday morning. PSU easily defeated West Chester in the Fall season last year en route to their runner up finish in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen tournament, where West Chester was knocked out in the first round.
Saturday will not be an easy game by any means, and the Golden Rams will have to be virtuously flawless if they want to contend with the Nittany Lions.
Ryan Frisco is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.