Founders Field – Pittsburgh, Pa. — The Women of Maryville Rugby Football Club recently returned from the USA Rugby High School National Championship Playoff Series, finishing a best ever fifth in the nation.
The defending Southern Region Champions from Maryville (24-1) opened the series on Saturday morning May 31, with a visit from the 2007 National Runner-up and No. 1 seed from the Pacific, Sacramento Amazons.
“They were definitely the biggest team we have faced this year,” said coach Jay Hawkins. “As with almost every team we played this year, MRFC would be smaller, so again our forwards would have to play with passion and limit missed tackles and penalties.”
The MRFC Pack, led by senior Kyna Graham and junior Becky Keast, held the much larger Amazon pack in check throughout most of the first half.
“They ran hard and were very difficult to bring down,” said Graham, “but we felt that if we kept the pressure on them, put them on the ground, and made them follow us around the field we would have some success.”
That strategy was rewarded when junior outside center Brooke Legate broke several tackles and touched down the try from 55 meters away in the first ten minutes of play. “Rachel did a good job of getting the ball wide, and I just tried to make a play,” said Legate.
Freshman Catherine Eichorn would put through the conversion and MRFC took a 7-0 lead.
Sacramento would open the second half with renewed vigor from their front five and began using their size by attacking the weak side of the Maryville defense.
“Many times we would not recognize being overloaded to the weak side of the Ruck or Maul,” said assistant coach Rick McGhie. “Sacramento did a good job of using their forwards to create opportunities with numbers to the weak side,”
Ultimately, the Amazons would break through with a strong run from center Mary Fa’avesi for the try at the nine minute mark. With the Sacramento conversion going wide, the women from Maryville pursued the following kick off with even more aggressiveness.
“I thought Sacramento’s ability to control the ball with their big forwards on offense began to take its toll,” Hawkins said. “We had some penalties that cost us opportunities deep into their territory, and we failed to get the ball wide when we had the chance.”
The size and experience of the Lady Amazons began to show, and again Sacramento would put through a long try for the win 10-7.
“I was very proud of our girls,” said Hawkins.” We definitely drew one of the toughest teams in the tournament to start with, and the effort from our young ladies was inspiring. Our girls set the goal of competing with the best teams in the nation, and with our showing this morning; I think rugby in the South has closed the gap.”
Maryville would face the top seed from the Northeast, Elizabeth, N.J., in their second contest of the day.
“We got together as seniors and challenged each other to play to our strength,” said senior and captain Rachel McCroskey. “All our coaches expressed a disappointment that we did not go wide with the ball and felt as though we started to bang too much. “We wanted to show that we could play better and we did.”
Although New Jersey would open the match with an unconverted try in the sixth minute, Maryville would respond with an outstanding effort from fly half McCroskey. Taking the ball into the try zone herself in the 12th minute, McCroskey would prove adept at running the potent Maryville back line.
Continuing the “get it wide” attack, Maryville would score twice more within the first 12 minutes of the second half. Outside center Brooke Legate would benefit from excellent passing from her sister Erin and tremendous support from the rest of the back line with two additional scores.
“Much better passing and fewer penalties were the difference in this match,” said Hawkins.
Coach McGhie said, “Rachel played with great leadership and vision, and we were rewarded with a tremendous effort from our back line. Once Erin and Brooke started playing pitch and catch and Adrianna made some long runs, we became very difficult to defend.”
Information about Maryville Rugby may be found at www.mrfcrugby.com or www.smacrugby.com.