WPL Round Up: Week 7

Race for the semifinals starting to intensify.

With each passing round, the Women's Premier League (WPL) intensifies, as teams chase those four coveted semifinal spots at nationals. Week seven was no different.

The weekend started in Illinois, where Glendale (5-0-1) and Chicago North Shore (1-4-1) battled each other and the weather. The home side took a 7-0 lead before the Merlins sent Jenny Lui and Christen Suda into the try zone, 10-7 to Glendale. Torrential rain turned into lightning delays, and according to WPL commissioner Milla Sanes, the game was called just before half. The league's severe weather policy states:

If the game is called before halftime, the teams will be assigned a tie but the tie score will be the higher of the 2 scores when the game is called. For example, at the 30-minute mark Team A has 10 points and Team B has 20 points. The game is called for inclement weather, both teams are assigned a score of 20 points and the game listed as a tie.

Therefore, the game is recorded as a 10-10 tie, and both teams will receive two standings points. The Merlins still lead the Blue Conference at 5-0-1 and with 25 points, while Chicago North Shore is 1-4-1 with nine points.

On the other side of the western pool, Berkeley (3-3) and ORSU (1-4) took advantage of dry conditions and scored 14 tries between them. The All Blues accounted for 10 of those tries in the 52-28 win and earned its bonus point 15 minutes into the match. Scrumhalf Monika Rozkowska and the back three of Cathy Cai, Ardia Kelker and Emma Harbage all scored, while Samantha Miller kicked the conversion.

Berkeley put down six more tries before game's end - three from forwards Allie Byrne, Elena Edwards and Frieda Fetu'u, two from Bulou Mataitoga, and a second from Kelker. This season, the back line in particular has seen a lot of movement, a process that Berkeley head coach Theo Bennett embraces.

"I'm always experimenting. No one's safe in any position. We've got to be good rugby players at a good level of IQ, Bennett said. "It's about having a group of people that I can analyze and install in positions that I can think can do the job."

Bennett credited the aid of assistant coaches Evan Hoese and Rob Bascherini, who have been instrumental to the team's success thus far, and also called out some standout performances.

"Bulou is an exceptional player and has taken a lot on her shoulders to step up and be our fullback and outside center and come into the flyhalf position," Bennett said. "She's a great student of the game. That, with her natural ability, creates quite a threatening player. I think she's stepped up leaps and bounds."

The Jesters scored a converted try in each quarter, and they all came out of the forwards: Candace Mahoney-Watson, Brianna Pickering, Beckett Royce, Rachel Johnson. Fullback Emma Richie went 4-for-4 on conversions.

In the Red Conference, Twin Cities (4-2) traveled to Atlanta (1-5) in hopes of both syncing its lineup and bettering its third-place position in the standings.

"We've been in a transition year," Twin Cities assistant coach Kim O'Brien said. "I don't' think we've put the same starting lineup on the field yet, which is somewhat of a challenge when you're trying to get people time and also familiar with each other.

"[World Cup Eagle] Stacey Bridges isn't playing for us, and that's a big adjustment," the coach continued. "We lost our scrumhalf [Rachel Lentsch] to a broken foot in the 7s season and have put either Sylvia Braaten or Becca Brown there. That's a critical position, and with them switching back and forth, we haven't been getting a lot of continuity."

But O'Brien noted steady progress, which helped build a 12-3 halftime lead against Atlanta Sunday. Twin Cities flyhalf Katana Howard and wing Kaelene Lundstrum both scored, and fullback Megan Wolff kicked a conversion, while Atlanta got its points from an Alice Plant penalty. Wolff restored the 12-point lead with a penalty just after the break, and then Howard got her second try at minute 64, 20-3. There the game stood until the final minute of regulation, when Lundstrum scored her second try - the Amazons' fourth - for the 25-3 win.

Those ever-important bonus points are already making a difference, as the 3-3 Amazons moved past 4-2 Beantown, which dropped a 38-8 decision to New York (5-0) Sunday. Beantown and Twin Cities meet in Minnesota on Oct. 29.

New York played both of its Beantown games in Boston, and the visitors again used the second half to pull away from the hosts. New York took a 12-5 halftime lead off tries from wing Kerry Conlin and outside center Emily Magee, and a conversion from scrumhalf Shelby Lin. September Player of the Month and Beantown No. 8 Yeja Dunn scored for her side minutes before the break.

"Beantown had a good first half and were a nuisance at the breakdown," New York coach James English explained. "I was happy enough with the first-half performance. We showed good intent and had a few good opportunities that just went to ground, but we knew if we could remain patient we would score points."

New York fullback Jennifer Salomon scored early in the second half, and Lin converted. Beantown reserve Emily Jones kicked a penalty at minute 50 to keep it close, 19-8, but then New York started to distance itself.

"We were able to produce quicker ball in the second half and did a better job at retaining possession, which really helped us take advantage of some attacking opportunities," English noted.

Influential subs took the pitch and they impacted the scoreboard immediately. WPL first-timer Natalie Kosko, who hails from Quinnipiac University and Lindenwood University, made her debut with New York and celebrated with a try. Reserve Lisa Roselin scored two tries, and second-half addition Kristen Siano kicked two conversions, 38-8.

For more information on current standings and upcoming fixtures, visit wplrugby.org.