WPL ROUND-UP WEEK 10
The Women’s Premier League (WPL) has concluded its regular season, and now the entire 10-team field will head to Glendale, Colo., for the two-day national championship, Friday, Nov. 1 and Sunday, Nov. 3.
It was winner-take-all for New York and Beantown, as a trip to the championship semifinals rested on the outcome. The drama intensified as weather forced a relocation and kickoff was delayed until 7 p.m. Sunday.
“The record shows that we’ve beaten them more but you never know with Beantown. They’re the type of opposition where you just have to show up,” New York head coach Tiffany Faaee said. “They played a really good territory game, kicking behind us, and it was a good test for our back three. Luckily we’ve been working on our pendulum a little bit but we really haven’t been tested before that.”
Scrumhalf Gianna Solomon and wing Frankie Sands put the home side ahead 10-0 after 30 minutes. Beantown responded through inside center Rosanna Wright and flyhalf Tatjana Toeldte, who also kicked a conversion for the 12-10 lead. New York then started to pull away in the second half, sending reserve Briana Yerbury (2), wing Sarah Levy and No. 8 Chloe Jex in for tries. Flyhalf Nikki Richardson added a conversion for the 32-12 win and second-place finish in the East Conference.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch their journey from game one, especially being such a building year for us,” Faaee said. “The maturity level and composure – especially in the first half with how tight it was – allowed them to execute and fix things. … There were little spots of good flow, where they were really gelling as a team, and good cohesion showed with multiple-phase play. We’re in a good position heading into nationals.”
Beantown will play Berkeley in the 5th place semifinal, and New York will play Life West during Friday’s championship semifinals. It’s been a stellar fall for the WPL first-year Gladiatrix, which ended its 7-1 regular season with a 55-21 road win against ORSU.
Life West built a 31-point, first-half lead against the Jesters, as props Tiara Littleton and Catie Benson, and wings Neariah Persinger (2) and Elona Williams dotted down. Persinger and reserve Leti Hingano kicked the extras. ORSU flanker Anna Symonds snapped the shutout, and fullback Emma Richie connected for two (31-7) but then three tries in 10 minutes (Hingano, Persinger, Nicole Strasko) kept momentum on the visitors’ side. Flanker Elizabeth Cairns added the team’s ninth try at minute 70.
Although a victory was out of reach, ORSU kept pushing and sent flanker Rachel Johnson across for a brace of tries in the final 10 minutes. Richie’s conversions provided the 55-21 final. ORSU will play the Twin Cities Amazons in Friday’s 5th-place play-ins.
Atlanta also finished the season 7-1 and ended with a 49-0 win over visiting Chicago North Shore. The Harlequins put down 44 points in the first 40, as No. 8 Cortney Kuehl (2), lock Lisa Jackson, fullback Lara Gartner, flyhalf Corinne Heavner and outside center Shamira Robles scored tries. Heavner also kicked four conversions and two penalties.
“One of the biggest things I wanted to work on with Blake [Bradford] and Andrew [McNeil], the coaching team: We have a lot of weapons but don’t know how to stop other people from scoring,” Atlanta head coach Ros Chou said of the defense-focused fall. “This was our first shutout all year, which was really great to see. North Shore even brought in two of their stronger players in the second half and we were able to sustain that and keep them out of the try zone. I’m really happy with the coaching team, and the team is really focusing on being stingy on defense and playing with a ton of pressure. I couldn’t be happier with that.
One thing I wish didn’t stop: Usually we put up more points in the second half,” the coach added. “We scored 44 in the first half and then one more [from Robles] in the 48th minute and then stalled.”
Chou credited North Shore’s better ball retention in the second half, and Atlanta had fewer opportunities with ball in hand. Nevertheless, it was a good performance to ride into Colorado, where the Harlequins will compete in the championship bracket for the first time since 2014 and face hometown Glendale in the semifinals. Chicago North Shore will play San Diego in the 5th place play-ins.
On Saturday, Glendale hosted San Diego in the teams’ final regular-season match and took a 14-point lead through No. 8 Amandine Chatelier and wing Kaitlyn Broughton. Inside center McKenzie Hawkins kicked both conversions. Surfers flanker Evi Ashenbrucker made it 14-5 after 43 minutes, but then two tries from Madison Slaught and another from Chatelier (33-5) made a comeback difficult. In the waning minutes, San Diego sent fullback Teigan MacDonald through and inside center Megan Foster added the conversion, and Glendale reserve Carmen Farmer answered with a final score: 38-12.