Falcons of Notre Dame soar to Fall Championship victory

PALM COAST, Fla. – A day after beating Kutztown in the Fall Championship Semifinal, Notre Dame College defeated Winona State, 45-10, and claimed the Women’s Division II Fall Championship title.

Up against a physically imposing Winona State side, the Falcons of Notre Dame managed to execute their game plan, which included spreading the ball quickly and avoiding punishment at the breakdowns.

Notre Dame Winger Jianna McCullough scored her first of two tries to get the scoring underway, before back-three counterpart Emilia Ferrara added her own to give the Falcons an early 12-0 lead. Lanoria Duhart, coming off of an impressive hat trick performance against Bowdoin, got Winona on the board with a try 15 minutes into the match. The conversion attempt that followed was unsuccessful, and the Warriors trailed, 12-5.

McCullough’s second try would damper Winona State’s momentum briefly, as the Bobcats once again found themselves deep in Notre Dame territory and prop Kathryn Zahn managed to get beyond the try line for a score. Continued pressure from the Warriors’ defense kept Notre Dame deep in its own territory. However, in what would prove to be a game-changing play, Lea Walsh did more than relieve the pressure with a long run for a try and Gauthreaux banged through her third conversion of the half to put the Falcons up, 26-10, at the break.

Notre Dame’s ability to move the ball from touchline to touchline not only negated Winona State’s strength in the rucks, but also seemed to tire out the Warriors. As the Winona State defense began to wear down, gaps opened up in the second half for the Falcons to exploit to the tune of three tries, including a second for Walsh.

Not to be lost in Notre Dame’s fleet-footed attack and accurate boot of Gauthreaux is the play the Falcons received from Stephanie Swainson. The powerful number eight was terrific all weekend, and made plays all over the park on her way to the Women’s DII Fall Championship MVP.

Prior to the DII Final, Kutztown outmuscled Bowdoin to win the weekend’s consolation match, 8-5. Playing to their strength, the Golden Bears controlled the game by keeping the ball in the hands of their talented forwards. A first-half try from lock Kayla Shirk was accompanied by a penalty kick by Mary Cate Matta. The eight points would be all Kutztown needed, as they shut out their opponent until Bowdoin’s hard work was awarded with a late try from wing Georgia Bolduc.

The victory over Winona State has earned Notre Dame College a spot at the May 9 College National Championship, where they will play the winner of the Women’s DII Spring Championship.

Following the conclusion to the Fall Championship, a Women’s DII Fall Championship All-Tournament Team was selected. The following players played their way onto the list over the weekend:

Sharyn Beodeker – Kutztown University
Lanoira Duhart – Winona State
Patsy Ford – Notre Dame College
Hannah Gauthreaux – Notre Dame College
Faith Hughes – Kutztown
Victoria Langhans – Winona State
Nicole Linberg – Winona State
Randi London – Bowdoin College
Hannah Long – Notre Dame College
Karmin Macedo – Notre Dame College
Anna Piotti – Bowdoin College
Georgia Porter – Winona State
Jess Tolton – Kutztown University
Lea Walsh – Notre Dame College

MVP: Rebecca Swainson – Notre Dame College