West Chester University women’s rugby (10-3) team captured its first Mason-Dixon Championship last Sunday in a come from behind victory against North Carolina University, 32-24.
West Chester had already captured a spot in the National tournament by being in the championship game of the Mason Dixon tournament. But this is right where they were last year, losing to the United States Naval Academy, 17-10. They then got swept in the first two games against Iowa and Penn State, and their season was over. But this year they are rewriting the script. Being able to capture the title, the team now has the momentum going forward into the National tournament that starts in two weeks.
As for the North Carolina game, it was a grinder, and a game in which the Lady Rams were on the ropes. In the first half, each team was delivering blow after blow to each other, each team with an answer for the other. Erin Gallagher had two tries in the first half, each of which were answered by North Carolina. Lady Ram’s leading scorer, Nicole Benedetti, also had two tries with 13 minutes left in the half, one of them converted by Sophia Schwab, which pulled West Chester within two heading into halftime, 19-17.
In the second half, it was much of the same, a back and forth affair, which neither team giving in. In the 53rd minute, West Chester grabbed its first lead of the afternoon on a try by Arielle Grant, giving them a 22-17 lead. However, not long after, in the 65th minute, UNC answered right back with a try, regaining the lead, 24-22.
For the rest of the match WCU kicked it into second gear, taking momentum and control of the match. In the 68th minute, Benedetti made a stellar defensive play, racing all the way down the field and converting her third try of the game, and her 24th try of the season. This try put WCU back in the lead, 27-24, and then again, shortly after that, Erin Brosius, with three minutes left in the match, sealed the deal for the Golden Rams, and securing their first ever Mason-Dixon tournament championship.
This is the second year in which the conference is in existence and in both years West Chester has made the championship game, now 1-1 in those two games. It is also the Lady Rams fourth conference championship overall. They won the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union (EPRU) title three straight years from 2007-2009.
As the Lady Rams move forward, they will prepare for their first round National matchup against Georgia Tech, in Georgia at 10:30 am on Saturday April 26th. In order for WCU to be successful leading scorers, Nicole Benedetti, and Arielle Grant will need to play big minutes. Also Sophia Schwab will need to do her best to convert the tries that her teammates are scoring.
The Lady Rams will need to be on they’re “A” game, or they are going to be disappointed for the second straight year.
Coach Tony DeRemer, in his 10th season as head coach, will look to improve his very impressive resume. He is 81-48-3 over that time, securing multiple conference championships, and being coach of one of the six schools that consider women’s rugby a varsity sport. So for him, this is the next step, winning a game, or even more in this most pristine tournament.
Ryan Calpin is a second-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalisim. He can be reached at RC784188@wcupa.edu