Only one game remains on the schedule for the West Chester Lady Ram rugby team’s fall season.That game occurs this Saturday, as the women take on visiting Delaware in their own Farel Stadium. A win in that game will solidify West Chester’s number two seed going into the end-of-the year Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union tournament.
Going back to recent history, the Lady Rams have been a normal shoe-in for the number one seed as well as the EPRU crown. By winning that title, they earn a high seed in the Mid Atlantic Rugby Football Union tournament that takes place early in the Spring.
A high seed in the tourney virtually locks up a spot in the end of full season NCAA Sweet 16 tournament, in which West Chester has been an annual competitor since their entry into NCAA play.
But things have changed this year.
Princeton used to be WCU’s top competitor in the EPRU, and West Chester has since proved their dominance over the Tiger squad.
Last season brought with it two new participants, as Shippensburg and Delaware joined the crowd, battling West Chester for the crown. West Chester has shown they have enough to handle both of those tough teams.
A new team has once again joined the ranks of the EPRU; and they won’t be nearly as easy to overcome.
That team is the Penn State Nittany Lions. The same Nittany Lions that attend the school where Joe Pa has coached the football team since the beginning of time. The same school that, at main campus alone, has more students than people in the city of West Chester. The same Nittany Lion rugby team that has been a consistent finalist for the NCAA Division I championship.
That is who West Chester has to contend with now. The Lady Rams no longer have the tough road to Nationals they once did. Now they have arguably the toughest team in the nation to deal with, right in their own division.
The season started off with the Rams annual match-up against the Maryland Terapins. In their trip down South, the WCU Golden Rams took the season opener down to the wire, bringing home the victory in the game’s final seconds.
Maryland drew first blood, as they became the first of the two teams to score on the year with a try early on in the first half. That try put them up 5-0 after an unsuccessful conversion.
Six minutes later, West Chester put up their first points of the season, as Priscilla Torres ran in for a try, evening the score at five.
The Lady Rams then took their first lead of the game, as Megan Lamm converted on a penalty kick for three points, putting West Chester up 8-5.
That lead was short lived, as Maryland came right back with a try, this time successfully converting to put them up 12-8. Maryland would carry that lead into the half.
Already up in the game, Maryland notched the first try of the second half, going up by nine, 17-8.
Although West Chester was quick to close in this time, as two minutes later Alex DiCicco scored her first try of the season. A converted penalty kick would bring the Golden Rams to within one, down 17-16 deep into the second half.
The two teams would then trade trys, as Brianne Feinour scored one for West Chester in that span. With seconds left on the clock, the Lady Rams found themselves down by one and desperately trying to find the trizone.
In those final seconds, the Rams were granted with one final chance to claim the game. In that moment, the game was in the hands of veteran kicker Megan Lamm, as she had the chance to convert on a penalty kick and give West Chester their first win of the year.
With the successful kick, WCU left the field as victors, on the good side of a 24-21 game. A great start to the season.
The very next day, West Chester played host to East Carolina University in their home opener. In a well fought game in front of the hometown crowd, West Chester fell to the Southern foe.
An early score by Cheryl Johnson gave WCU the lead in the game, but the Pirates came storming right back with a try and successful conversion to take a 7-5 lead.
West Chester did not back down, as Mary Kate Heaton would score her first try of the year, putting the Lady Rams back on top 10-7.
The Pirates had a swift answer, scoring yet another try with a successful conversion. They would never look back.
West Chester never gave up in the second half, but they never managed to cross the ball into the trizone again in the game. The final score at the end was the ECU Pirates 21, WCU Golden Rams 10.
West Chester got back into the win column the next week against LaSalle, as they ran over the host in a one sided game.
Brianne Feinour scored West Chester’s first try in the game, her second of the year. Megan Lamm converted, making it a 7-0 lead. Lamm would go on to convert two penalty kicks in the first half to give WCU a 13-0 lead at the break.
After the somewhat slow first half, West Chester broke loose, running all over the field and finding their way into the trizone multiple times.
Of those to score in the half were Britt Miller, Anna McGlade, and Cheryl Johnson. When it was all said and done, West Chester had won their second game of the year by a final score of 32-5.
West Chester’s fourth game of the season brought with it their biggest test yet, as they faced the top-ranked Penn State for the first time ever in division play.
Penn State struck very early on in the game, going up quick 5-0 on a try.
West Chester came right back, scoring on a penalty by Megan Lamm to come within two.
Penn State proved way too much for the Golden Rams to handle, as they scored three more trys before the half, leaving West Chester with ground to make up.
The Lady Rams never gave up, and came out the second half charging hard. Cheryl Johnson scored West Chester’s first try of the game early in the second half to bring their total to eight. Unfortunately, that would be their only try of the game.
Penn State took the victory by the final score of 39-8.
The game against Penn State was West Chester’s best showing against the Nittany Lions since 2007. They showed heart in the game, and proved they can challenge them. When they face Penn State in the EPRU tournament, they need to stop them from scoring on the long runs to have a chance to come out the victor.
With their record at .500 and 0-1 in the division, West Chester took on Princeton, who has been their biggest rival in the EPRU since they entered the division.
The game belonged to Britt Miller, as her two trys, along with Megan Lamm’s conversion and penalty kick, totaled the 15 points it took to down the hosting Tigers 15-8 and giving the Lady Rams their first win in the division of the season.
West Chester’s next game will take place Oct. 30 against Delaware, as West Chester plays their third and final division game before the tournament. A win there would give them the momentum of riding a two game win streak over division rivals.
Ryan Frisco is a graduate of West Chester University. He can be reached at email@example.com.