WPL 2015 Recap: Week Three

Week three of the Women's Premier League was a treat, as all but one match was decided by five points or fewer. There are three 2-1 teams in the Blue Conference, as Berkeley All Blues broke the Glendale Raptors' streak, and ORSU rallied late against winless San Diego Surfers. The Red Conference sports the only undefeated team - Twin Cities Amazons - and the Atlanta Harlequins got its first win of the season against D.C.

After a tough road victory over ORSU, Glendale could not repeat the heroics against Berkeley. The hosts rank in three first-half tries - two from wing Ardia Kelker and one from Jessica Turner. Glendale broke them up with a Hali Deters score and Hannah Stolba conversion, but trailed 15-7 into the break.

"In general we wanted to focus on defensively taking away their space and time," said Berkeley coach Katrina Logan. "We know Hannah [Stolba] is a really good flyhalf. She kicks, she runs, she sees the field really well. Defensively we wanted to take away that advantage. We did well in the first half and fell off a bit in the second half, but we were able to recover even though Glendale was really tough in their attack and how effective they were around the field."

The Raptors took advantage of Berkeley's dip in intensity and saw Kristen Shalosky and Kelly Mullen score during the opening six minutes. Stolba's conversion put Glendale ahead 19-15.

An absolute slugfest followed, but Berkeley capitalized on an opportunity in minute 78, when center Frances Wehrwein scored for the go-ahead points, and Ruth Bryson's conversion, ended the game at 22-19.

In the southern portion of the state, it looked like San Diego was well on its way to a win over ORSU. The visitors were able put a Molly Luft penalty and Zoe Wilson try on the board, but it was San Diego that dominated play in the first 40 minutes and led 14-8 at the break.

"The start of the second half was a continuation of the first," ORSU player-coach Beckett Royce reminisced painfully. "We were off the mark in our lineouts and under extreme pressure in the scrum, losing a few of our own put-ins. Our defense continued to be spectators, watching them cut holes through our line."

The Surfers answered with two more tries by minute 55 for a 24-8 lead.

"It could have gone two ways for us at that point," Royce continued. "We could have gotten down on ourselves and given up, or we could wake up and start playing some rugby. Those two quick tries were apparently the alarms that were finally loud enough to wake us up from our haze."

ORSU replacement hooker Paris Hart and her hard-launching tackles inspired the team. Three tries followed: Two sets of pick-and-go series allowed prop Adrienne Acosta and Royce to dive over for scores, while center San Juanita Moreno tore away for a 60-meter try. Luft slotted two of three conversions, and that made all of the difference in the 27-24 win.

"For us, I'm very happy we were able to gain focus and pull out such a comeback victory," Royce reflected. "However, our own lack of ambition in the first 60 minutes of the match put us under far more pressure than was necessary. We gave them meters and seemed unconcerned with it. It's good to know we can score tries quickly and have the character to come from behind, but that win feels more like a relief than a victory."

In the Red Conference, Atlanta experienced both relief and a victory, defeating the D.C. Furies 19-14 for the Harlequins' first win of the season.

"It's really amazing what a win can do," Atlanta coach Dylan Fawsitt said. "It was a great fight, and we're hoping the win kickstarts the season."

"Fight" was the operative word, as the grounds in Marietta, Ga., had been deluged with rain. Atlanta did a better job of adjusting its game to the conditions - consolidating ball in the forwards, playing for territory - and those tweaks proved integral to the outcome.

Flanker Liz Snodgrass scored about 15 minutes in, and fullback Amanda Carrington slotted the first of her two conversions. Kassidi Wynter, typically a front row, stepped in at inside center and contributed a try 35 minutes in.

Right before the break, D.C. sent captain Ellen Danford scored, and flyhalf Angela Cole converted for the 14-7 halftime deficit.

The ever-reliable Snodgrass scored at minute 60, dotting down what would become the game-winner. D.C.'s Sam Pankey scored minutes later, and Cole's second conversion made it 19-14 with 15 minutes remaining. That's a lot of time for two sides battling for their first wins of the season, but the leadership of Atlanta captains Madeline Verra and Lara Gartner kept the team angled toward victory.

"It was great to get some cohesion and togetherness," Fawsitt said. "We played with a little more confidence, although we didn't execute as well as could have. Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot - throwing the ball around and trying to do too much. We just need to stick to our game plan and do the simple things well, forcing our opponents to make more mistakes."

On the other side of the Conference, New York RC and Twin Cities were attempting to avoid their first loss of the season. It was the Amazons' first road game, but the visitors showed little hesitation, sending Jamie Zarembinski and Rachel Maas across for tries during the first four minutes. New York's Mary McCarthy hit a penalty before Tiffany Gjestvang scored for Twin Cities (15-3). At the onset of the 2nd quarter, Tiana Stroughter scored on the wing, and five minutes later repeated the feat. The scoreline sat at 15-13 for the remainder of the half.

"There's always more pressure on the road, especially going into a game with both teams undefeated," Bridges reported. "New York definitely came out hard ... and was able to capitalize on penalties, taking advantage of quick taps. Even with the close match, we really tried to manage our composure and control the tempo of the game, taking the game in sections and working on little things we could control."

It remained a one-score game until the fourth quarter, when tries from fullback Kaelene Lundstrum, Zarembinski (2), and Sylvia Braaten put the game out of reach. Lauren Rhode contributed New York's second-half try, and McCarthy's conversion made it 38-20 Twin Cities.

Week 4 Games
Blue Conference
ORSU (2-1) @ Glendale (2-1)
Berkeley (2-1) @ San Diego (0-3)

Red Conference
Atlanta (1-2) @ New York (2-1)
Twin Cities (3-0) @ D.C. Furies (0-3)