Davenport Women win Division II College Finals

The match started slowly, with both sides looking to feel one another out. Davenport defense kept Winona deep in their 22 early, but ill-discipline from both sides kept the match tied at 0-0. Winona clearly held an edge in the skills department, and they found space out wide.

Crisp passing saw Winona outside center Megan Wolff burst down the field, but she was caught by the fullback, and two phases later their momentum was halted by a forward pass. Davenport kicked a long clearance, but again were unable to regain possession.

Photo: Davenport v. Winona, Furman University

Winona used their pace and passing ability to tire the Davenport pack, who simply could not get their hands on the ball. When Davenport did get their hands on the ball, they also looked to play with great pace, but they were not able to make their size count, with solid Winona tackling keeping them from making progress.

Good ball movement between Davenport forwards Makala Ferguson and Hunter Thompson help them find some space, but Winona's tackling and intelligence at the breakdown kept alive. Davenport nearly found their way to the line after a solid shove at the scrum and a good carry from No.8 Hunter Moreland, however a knock kept them from scoring.

After a penalty at the scrum, Davenport elected to go for posts with a relatively easy kick, however, Hannah Tennant was unable to split the uprights. Nonetheless, Davenport regained possession of the ensuing 22, and showed great distribution to find space. Moments later, Winona won a turnover, and inside center Megan Wolff broke several tackles before being dragged down deep inside the Davenport half. A knock on the next phase gidtend Davenport a chance to clear, but Winona again attacked off the lineout.

Photo: Davenport v. Winona, Furman University

A clever tap play off a penalty failed to yield a significant gain, and with the ball tied up a scrum was awarded to Winona, who used a set-piece move to put Rachael Hannigan over the line 25 minutes into the half. Katherine Dries could not make the conversion, and the score stood at 5-0.

Davenport won a turnover in the Winona half, and found space thanks to good vision from flyhalf Ashley Byrge, however, they were unable to capitalize after Makala Ferguson knocked on 5 meters out. Davenports dominance in the scrum was on display however, and after winning the scrum against the head, No.8 Hunter Moreland drove through the defence to score a simple try. Hannah Tennant made the conversion to give Davenport a 7-5 lead.

Both sides were looking to attack with pace, and their enterprising game plan made for a very exciting match. Physicality was prominent, and both sides appeared on the verge of breaking the game open, and finally with 3 minutes left in the half Davenport did just that. Makala Ferguson broke several tackles and threw a beautiful offload out the back of her hand to put outside center Danielle Ordway into space. Ordway was caught 7 meters from the line, and after some clean passing, left wing Melissa Francis dove into the corner to score. Tennant could not kick the conversion leaving the score at 12-5.

Both sides showed promising moments, but the score did not change again before halftime. Davenport fly half was the star for her side in the first half, attacking the line at pace, and getting the ball into the hands of her impact players. Winona would look to straighten their attack, as well as get the ball into the hands of outside center Esters Iachen.

Photo: Davenport v. Winona, Furman University

Winona looked dangerous early, controlling possession early in the half, but this time it was the turn of Davenport to be a nuisance at the breakdown. However, Winona stole a Davenport scrum, and after a phenomenal run from outside center Esters Iachen, who offloaded to setup Emily Krahn, who was dragged down a meter short. Seconds later, it was Iachen who picked from the base to crash over the line. Kathryn Dries made no mistake with the conversion to tie the game up at 12 all.

Davenport was quick to respond after Winona failed to deal with the restart. With a lineout 10 meters out, DU drove the Winona pack behind their own line, and from their the score was a mere formality. Danielle Ordway was unable to make the touchline conversion, which left the score at 17-12.

Scrumhalf Kalene Hill broke down the touchline off a driving maul, and slipped out of two tackles before diving into the corner for a crucial try. Kathryn Dries conversion fell short, but the sides remained level with 20 minutes to play. Winona failed to build on the momentum, knocking on the restart, but they stole the feed on the scrum, and a good kick from Dries gave them the chance to clear their lines.

The Panthers attacked off a scrum, but time and time again the Winona scramble defence held, and it seemed that the momentum had shifted in favor of Winona. After a favorable bounce, Emily Krahn broke down the sideline, and Winona threatened the Davenport line, but the Panther defence held and won a turnover.

Photo: Davenport v. Winona, Furman University

Davenport elected to run from their own 22, and the decision paid off, with an electric step from Danielle Ordway propelling her through the defensive line, before she stepped around the fullback to score. Hannah Tennant slotted the conversion, putting Davenport ahead 24- 17 with 12 minutes to play.

Winona struck back immediately. A knock from Davenport on the kickoff gave them a scrum, and a Panther penalty gave them a chance at the line. Winona tight head Ianoira Duhart made a powerful carry to bring her side within inches of the line. Winona had numbers wide, and they swung it wide to put Iachen Esters over the line. Kathryn Dries could not make the conversion, leaving the score at 24-22.

Yet again, Winona failed to gather the restart, and Davenport attacked, and after a not releasing penalty on Winona Hannah Tennant displayed an icy cool composure to slot the uprights giving Davenport a 27-22 lead. It was Davenports turn to miss the restart, and with no time on the clock, Winona attacked from a scrum in the DU half. Winona tighthead Ianoira Duhart made a strong carry, but found herself isolated from her support, and a not-releasing penalty ended the match with DU being named the Division II Women's National Champions.

It was an outstanding match, with both sides competing at every facet of play, but in the end, the match was decided by the slimmest of margins. Congratulations to DU, and to Winona, for all their success this season.