Life and Lindenwood advance in Spring College Championships Day One

Claremont, Tulane, Chico State and UCF all move on to Saturday's final.

Claremont v Salisbury

Claremont Colleges made their way down the 57 freeway to Cal State Fullerton with an undefeated record this season as they met with Salisbury University for the first Women's D2 Spring semifinal. Salisbury came into Friday as an underdog, but you would never have known it with the confidence and pressure the Gulls put on Claremont.

Claremont would strike first early when Captain Dana Alimena dove to dot down for five and add two with an Alexandra Parker conversion. Parker would kick for posts soon after and Claremont was out to a 10-0 lead in the first 7 minutes.

The Foxes gave the Gulls their first scoring opportunity a few moments later however after committing a forward pass and allowing Marla McNeil to break through the line and score. A missed conversion left the early score 10-5.

Parker kept busy on the boot with another PK in the 19' but Shannon Lanham would respond with a try, closing the gap on Claremont. Cue Parker and Alimena, who would combine for another 19 points over the next 25 minutes. Salisbury Prop Haley Gee claimed the final points of the half however as the Gulls went to the break behind only 10.

The second half would see strong back and forth play from both squads, but Alexandra Parker and Claremont would prove to be too powerful. Parker alone put 14 points on the board through try and conversion, adding to her 29 in total through the match.

Claremont Colleges wins, 44-27.

Fresno State v Tulane

The second Women's D2 Spring Semifinal brought the Fresno State Bulldogs together with Tulane University as Fresno State arrived excited to reach the final stage having just missed out last season.

The Bulldogs saw the early advantage when Clare Sullivan was sent to the sin bin on a high-tackle yellow card. Fresno State capitalized by putting 12 points on their opponent during the 10-minute power play through a pair of tries from Jenna Balestra and Raquel Macias. Macias' score came after a pitch length breakaway that saw fans take to their feet.

Tulane would respond soon after in the 24' with a Madeline Brenner try, her first of three, giving the Riptide needed momentum after a shorthanded early series. Tables immediately turned as Tulane rallied for another 14 unanswered points to close out the first half and claim the lead.

Halftime would see a flurry of substitutions in the 80-degree California heat, as Tulane took advantage. Despite an injury timeout with Freshman Rohen Turner helped off the field, Tulane carried the lead through the final 40 minutes and conceded only a single try to advance to tomorrow's final match.

Tulane wins, 38-17.

Chico State v Virginia

The Wildcats of Chico State brought out their recognizable quick paced game on Friday as they clashed with the Cavaliers of Virginia. Having defeated neighbor to the south UC Santa Barbara to advance to Fullerton, Chico State came out of the gate strong, pacing to a 12-0 lead by the 10th minute. Both teams held up for an early injury break when Rebecca Kilmartin was helped off the pitch, to which UVA swung momentum and picked up 5 points.

Cavalier, Alaijah Cheeseman, followed with a try of her own and UVA found themselves right back in the thick of it trailing only 12-10. Chico State recognized the threat and responded well over the next 30 game minutes, going on a 29 unanswered point streak with Rebecca Luedke notching two tries and Darby McFall playing well from the boot for 9 points. McFall's elite defense was also on display through the second half with a collection of try-saving tackles. Hannah Westfall added a beautiful break away try of her own, escaping pitch length from her own end.

UVA's Hannah Turley tipped the scales back into her squads favor with a try in the 64' but it wouldn't be enough as time ran out on the Cavaliers.

Chico State wins, 41-20.

Central Florida v UC-Davis

In what may have been the match of the day, the second semifinal for Women's D1 saw the University of Central Florida take on UC-Davis. Through the entire 80 minutes, no clear winner emerged until the final whistle blew.

Both teams played well early, trading tries and playing and aggressive game. Gabby Pennino started things off for UCF in the 3' with a diving try from just outside the line. UC Davis would have to make two early substitutions due to injury, but immediately followed with strong possession and two scores from Brenda Erickson and Katiana Thompson. UCD leads early, 12-5.

Cortney Kuehl - remember that name - closed the gap for UCF shortly after with a 18' try and Jamie Spataro conversion, we're tied at 12. Each squad would find the pay dirt again, knotting it up at 17 a piece going into the half. Both teams playing their hearts out in the hot afternoon and keeping it exciting as neither pulled away.

UCD would come out of the half with momentum and drive towards back to back tries from Rebecca Lehman and Katiana Thompson, carrying the lead to 29-17. With just under 20 minutes on the clock, each team took a short water break - as all teams have been with the 90-degree heat. UCF capitalized on a few openings, most notably Cortney Kuehl dodged tackles off a UCD penalty to dot down. Tie game at 29 with only 6 minutes remaining, until Spataro would convert for a UCF comeback.

UCF wins, 31-29.

Penn State v Life

The marquee matches of the day arrived, first in the form of Life University and Penn State. The Nittnay Lions landed in Fullerton as two-time defending champions having beat Lindenwood in the 2017 final. A team featuring two capped Women's Eagles in Kayla Cannett and Tess Feury, Penn State came in a slight favorite, but Life wasn't about to let that phase them.

They would run into an immediate challenge as the Running Eagles held an offense that has averaged 70 points this post season, to only 10 points in the first half. 7 of which came via a penalty try. Those 10 points would come unanswered however in that half, due to a stout Penn State defensive effort and yellow card to Life's Darian Lovelace.

Fullback Kaitlyn Broughton put Life on the scorecard just before half when space was created on the left flank. Whitney Wilson would convert, and teams would break with Penn State up, 10-7.

Life held momentum after halftime as Wing Sydnee Cervinski also collected quick passes out wide, finding the pay dirt to give the Running Eagles their first lead. Unfortunately for that lead, star Kaitlyn Broughton required substitution after taking a big Penn State hit. Kira Garnett capitalized the reset by carrying a few Life defenders into the try zone to reclaim the lead.

Penn State looked to have a plan in place to hold off Life in the remaining 15 minutes and claim the narrow victory, but a penalty conceded on a Running Eagle drive allowed Whitney Wilson to settle, focus and kick for posts. Life up by two with under two minutes.

The ensuing restart wouldn't make it 10 meters, and a last chance scrum wouldn't be enough for Penn State.

Life wins, 17-15.

Lindenwood v BYU

The final matchup of the day featured Lindenwood and BYU. Two storied rugby programs meeting in what would be a one-sided contest in favor of the Lions. BYU had trouble collecting their attack and carrying the ball into the opposing end, while Lindenwood did a good job to spread the ball and see Dimeken Paogofie-Buyten score two tries.

Kicker McKenzie Hawkins also shined going 3 for 4 in conversions, along with two made penalty kicks.

BYU wouldn't go un-noticed before fulltime however as USA Rugby Girls High School All-American and Fresman, Kathryn Stowers, carried the ball over the line in the 71st minute. A collection of substitutions would then begin as both head coaches gave each player an opportunity to play in a National Championship semifinal.

In an altruistic moment on the pitch, the final match of the day featured a pair of siblings competing against each other as Janette Taufa with BYU and Joycelynn Taufe rostered with Lindenwood met in a family affair finale from Cal State Fullerton.

Joycelynn's squad would gain holiday dinner bragging rights as Lindenwood won out, 32-0

Looking ahead to tomorrow's Final matches, Claremont will face-off with Tulane for the Women's D2 title, while UCF will meet Chico State for the D1 final. Lastly, Lindenwood and Life clash for the D1-Elite National Championship. All featured LIVE on The Rugby Channel and FloRugby.