Davenport celebrates DII National Championship at College 15s

MORAGA, Calif. - Women's Division II Fall Champion Davenport University completed its season with a second trophy Saturday, defeating University of Southern California, 61-0, to win the National Championship at Saint Mary's College.

Greg Teliczan's team traveled to California earlier this week to take in all the Championship locale had to offer, and let its play on the field speak after a brutal spring season.

The Panthers, who had waited five months for this matchup and did not find out they would line up against the Trojans until last week, looked to dominate the game physically with and without ball in hand from the get-go. Despite losing an early lineout in the attacking half, No. 8 Hunter Moreland and lock Amy Palmbeck traded heavy runs through several defenders to set up Davenport within five meters of the try line.

Watch Women's DII National Championship replay on The Rugby Channel

Davenport lost possession forward before the Trojans returned the favor attempting to escape their 22, and Moreland fended two defenders after taking the ball from a 22-meter scrum for the opening try and 7-0 lead.

The USC defense turned up the heat on the Davenport attack in the ensuing minutes, containing the big forwards and shifty backs from scoreboard-turning possessions. Hannah Tennant kicked a 15th-minute penalty goal 15 meters from the posts when the Trojans conceded a penalty in the breakdown, and USC was saved from any on-field disadvantage apart from the three points from the Panther full back's boot.

"They did not let up," Moreland, Most Valuable Player of the National Championship, said of USC after the match. "We knew coming into this game that they fought to get here. They got here by hard work . . . and we knew they weren't going to let up.

"We had to come in strong. From the get-go, the first couple minutes - it takes a little bit to get going. Once we found our niche it lit a fire under our butts."

MVP Hunter Moreland dots down in the first half of the Women's Division II National Championship
Karen Drinkwater

USC failed to turn multiple opportunities in the Davenport defensive third into points in the first frame. The southern Californians clinically won the call in the tackle area near midfield in the 16th minute and took a tap to keep Davenport moving backwards. The Trojan forwards could not get too far past their opposite numbers, and fly half Yesenia Camacho placed a smart kick over the defense that stopped ahead of the try line. Davenport knocked on the chase, but held the defensive line after the set piece to force the Trojans into losing possession forward.

Davenport again kept USC out of the try zone in the 31st minute after conceding a penalty at its own 22. Trojan center Kimaada Kiongozi was stopped from opening her Championship scoring account, however, and her team could not turn an attacking lineout into points once again before Davenport wing Maddy Sparks ran 50 meters to end the danger.

The floodgates began to open for the Panthers towards the end of the half as USC struggled to cope with the size and strength of Davenport. The Trojans lost possession from their own put-in five meters from their try line for AIG Women's Junior All-American Ashlee Byrge to wrong-foot several defenders for a 17-0 lead. The Panthers kept the ball on the restart and Alley Miedzielec broke the gain line before offloading to Moreland in space for a 22-0 halftime score.

Tennant punished the Trojans in the first minute of the second half with her second penalty goal to increase the lead to 25-0. USC, after a player was sent to the sin bin, nearly stole a lineout deep in its own half minutes later, but hooker Tami Weber jumped off of the try line to keep it for the Panthers. Danielle Ordway scored her first of four second-half tries for a 30-0 advantage. Ordway's second, in the 57th minute, came after a defensive stand from her side, not letting off of the gas pedal with the National Championship in sight.

MVP Moreland capped off her performance with her second try in the 67th minute when Tara Taljaard took the ball from a scrum and offloaded in contact. Two more tries from Ordway bookended Sparks' try, and the Panthers were finally able to celebrate the National Championship their fans traveled to California to witness.

"I don't even know what to say," Moreland said. "I couldn't do it without my team, my coach, and my family here. The only word I have to describe this is 'indescribable.'

"I came [to Davenport] to play. I didn't expect any of these awards, but those are the perks of being a part of this program. It's brought me everywhere in this world. I'm so thankful for being here."