NSCRO Crowns Wayne State College Women as Small College National Champion

More photos can be found at: http://goo.gl/ikgXu . Courtesy of Philly Women’s Rugby.

View the full tournament results and scores here.

By Steve Cohen with Kristin Aliberto:

The National Small College Rugby Organization, “N”-scro, is pleased to announce that its 2012 Women’s Small College playoffs have culminated with the crowning of its Champion, Wayne State College of Wayne, Nebraska on Nov. 18 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. 78 teams representing 9 Unions / Conferences started the journey in September and it was the Wildcats of Wayne State that was left standing in the end.

The weather was near perfect for the players with some sun, mid 50s temperature and dry for this gathering of Champions. All of the four participants were undefeated and worked hard all season long to earn their place in the NSCRO Championship event.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, the first semifinal match saw the East Penn RU Champion Albright College (Reading, PA) take on Roger Williams University, the Colonial Coast Rugby Conference Champ from Bristol, RI. Albright started the game off strong with good tight phases down the field. Roger Williams pack was able to reverse Albright’s momentum winning the first scrum and giving RW’s first possession. Albright’s defense was able to hold off Roger Williams channel 3 attacks and eventually created turn-over ball. Albright’s flanker Danisha Higgs showed her pace by breaking away on a 50 meter run to make the game 5-0. Roger Williams was not defeated and quickly came back, scoring two tries in the next 10 minutes making it 10-7. Roger Williams was able to keep momentum for the rest of the half scoring once again after getting the ball out to their fullback Melanie Watts. The second half was scrappy as each team fought to get more points on the board. Roger Williams made it 15-7 as prop Randi Featherstone powered her way in and seemed in control. However, after a long struggle in Roger William’s “red” zone, Albright scored off of a quick kick tap from a penalty, closing the gap to 15-12. Despite Albright’s efforts it was not enough as Roger Williams scored late in the half making the final score 20-12.

In the second semifinal, Wheaton College (Norton, MA), the New England Wide CRC Champion faced and the Great Plains RFU Champ, Wayne State College (Wayne, NE). Both teams played their hearts out in this exhausting, back and forth match. Wheaton’s backline started the game off strong with penetrating crashes from the centers. A very physical game from the start, Wayne State lost a player for 10 minutes after center Jasmine Kovacs was sin binned. Wheaton’s early momentum was able to capitalize on their numbers and scored early in the game. Wayne State was able to shift momentum quickly scoring a try and penalty kick. Wheaton fought back and scored making the end of the first half 14-10 in their favor. In the beginning of the second half Wayne State came out with a strong forward presence, sucking in defense with multiple crashes. Wayne State scored making the game 15-14. Wheaton’s flyhalf Leah Smith made an incredible run, evading 4 tackles and scoring to take back the lead, 21-15. This time the tables were turned as late in the second half Wheaton’s Mikayla Treadwell was given a yellow card for dangerous tackling. Playing a man down, Wheaton could not hold back Wayne State who were able to score a try to close the gap to 1 point at 21-20. A few minutes later, after driving into Wheaton’s territory, Wayne State turned a penalty against Wheaton into 3 and took back the lead 23-21. With minutes left in the game Wheaton fought to the gut-wrenching end as they made their way to Wayne State’s 5m line. Despite Wheaton’s attacking prowess it was not enough as Wayne State’s defense stymied right at the goal line. Referee Merri Gardner’s whistle ended the match and Wayne State held on for the victory.

On Sunday, after a heart-breaking loss to Wayne State in the semifinals, Wheaton came out strong against Albright, determined to win and take 3rd place in Nationals. After two phases of Albright Ball, Wheaton was able to score a try off a steal only 2 minutes into the match. Albright struggled to get the ball out of their own 22 but came up short as Wheaton put up an addition 3 points converting a penalty kick, leading the game 8-0. Albright’s back row fought back with penetrating runs down the field by speedster Danisha Higgs and Beverly Lasan, putting Wheaton on its heals for the first time since the game’s start. Albright had trouble supporting these runs and was unable to maintain possession of the ball. Wheaton once again worked its way down the field at a steady, strong pace. Their efforts were rewarded as channel 1 ball led to an easy score by center Danielle Fournier. Albright kept fighting however and was able to capitalize on a kick down field by Wheaton. Albright’s fullback, Laura Nwankwor, came on with great pace, creating holes for her Danisha Higgs, whose unstoppable speed crashed through Wheaton’s dispersed line, making the game 13 to 7 in Wheaton’s favor. Not to be phased, Wheaton quickly scored a converted try making the score at the half 20-7. The second half was marked by Wheaton’s dominance as they marched down the field on multiple phases. With momentum going for the blue and yellow Wheaton came up with an easy victory over Albright, 45-7.

Both teams came out strong as a brutal battle began for the championship under the watchful eye of referee Olivia Nigh. Wayne State kept the pressure on Roger Williams defense, pushing down the field. A strong scrum by Wayne State created the team’s first score of the match. The match battled on as both teams played a very physical game. Wayne State’s penalties put Roger Williams back into the game but it was not enough. Wayne State would go on to score two more times by penetrating attacks from their forwards and centers. Under pressure Roger Williams depended on a heavy kicking game to get out of trouble. Wayne State was able to score off a block kick, ending the first half 20-0 in their favor. Roger Williams fought back in the second half, shutting down Wayne State’s offense for most of the half. After a long back and forth kicking game by both teams Wayne State was able to put additional points on the board. Their dominance continued as Wayne State fought its way to a shut out victory, ultimately winning 32-0 and earning the National Championship title. It was a long 1,300 mile trip from Wayne to Cherry Hill, over 22 hours on their charter bus, but as coach Darrin Barner was drowned in a ‘water bath’ by his players…it was well worth every mile.

All matches were made available to the public via free live streaming. There was nearly 1200 total connections for both days and with many viewers watching on one connection, the audience total was likely well in excess of 5,000. Live streaming was made possible by a grant from USA Rugby as part of their support for NSCRO and Small College rugby.

DVDs of all 4 of the championship matches are professionally produced and are available for sale for a limited time. Go to www.nscro.org to download an order form today.

NSCRO thanks World Rugby Shop, an official partner of NSCRO, for their support. Visit WorldRugbyShop.com today for all of your team wear, replica, and player gear needs.

NSCRO invited Martha Daines, the Head Coach of USA Rugby’s Women’s Collegiate All-American team, to attend the event and witness first-hand the skill level of small college players. Martha attended and was part of the “selection” committee that picked the “All-NSCRO Championship XV” team and the Event MVP. NSCRO will be working closely with Martha to provide opportunities for Small College players to prove themselves in a pathway to possible future selection to the Women’s National Team.

NSCRO understands the importance in recognizing the accomplishments of the fine student-athletes who have worked long and hard to reach the pinnacle of Small College rugby success. The following trophies and awards will be provided following the National Championship match.

Team Trophies were awarded for 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and 4th Place

Player Awards were awarded as follows:
NSCRO Medals (gold, silver and bronze) were awarded to the players on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams.

NSCRO “Heart & Soul” Award – a match ball is given to a player on each team who was been an inspiration and significant contributor to the club. The match ball is to be signed by her teammates in appreciation of what she has meant to the club. The following recipients were honored in this way:
Albright College – Laura Nwankwor
Wheaton College – Leah Smith
Roger Williams University – Randi Featherstone
Wayne State College – Maggie Warrick

The “All-NSCRO Championship XV” was selected with each player will receive a trophy recognizing their selection as follows:
Prop – Haley Wright, Wayne State
Hooker – Robin Bradley, Wheaton
Prop – Randi Featherstone, Roger Williams
2nd Row – Julianne Wilke, Wayne State
2nd Row – Hannah Reier, Wheaton
Back Row – Amber Kutnink, Wayne State
Back Row – Ally Dykes, Roger Williams
Back Row – Danisha Higgs, Albright
Scrumhalf – Kelsey Meyer, Wayne State
Flyhalf – Leah Smith, Wheaton
Center – Maggie Warrick, Wayne State
Center – Cat Baer, Roger Williams
Wing – Lacy Tonniges, Wayne State
Wing – Danielle Fournier, Wheaton
Fullback – Maura Dahill, Wheaton

Maggie Warrick was selected as the Championship MVP.

The NSCRO Selection Committee consisted of Martha Daines, Kristin Aliberto, Kate Hallinan and Emily Tunney.
NSCRO wishes to recognize the following whose contributions helped to make this event successful…..
Match Referees – Olivia Nigh and Merri Gardner.
Assistant Referees – Pete Hesler, Richard Cobb and Pat Martin.
Kristin Aliberto and the Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Club for hosting the event.
For more info about the club, go to www.pwrfc.org.
Pete Helser and the South Jersey Rugby Club for providing the facility.
For more info about the club, go to www.southjerseyrugby.org.
BC Productions for its audio and video coverage.
For more info about BC Productions, go to www.bbcstudios.com
Match commentators, Phaidra Knight and Matt Robinette.
Ashley Cameron of Live Sports Video for web streaming coverage.
For more info about LSV, go to www.livesportsvideo.com
Certified Athletic Trainers – Steve Andrews and Stacie Anastasio

About the NSCRO – 
The National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) was founded by Steve Cohen and Chip Auscavitch in 2007 as an expansion of the East Coast Division 3 Men’s and Women’s Collegiate Championships founded by Steve Cohen in 2002.

NSCRO continues to develop and improve as an Organization. Presently there are over 200 men’s and nearly 80 women’s teams participating in our playoff system nearly twice the number when NSCRO started in 2007. NSCRO recognizes that the needs of Small Colleges are different from the larger schools that participate in USA Rugby’s Divisions 1-A, 1-AA and 2. NSCRO creates its Policies to specifically foster the growth and development of Small College rugby.

NSCRO is currently run by its President, Steve Cohen, who recently appointed a 9-member Advisory Board to guide NSCRO as the Organization expands its operation in the coming years.

As part of NSCRO’s development, it is no longer referring to its playoff eligible teams or National Playoffs as Division 3. It is now called Small College rugby. One of the key goals of NSCRO’s Policies is to establish a “level playing field” for small colleges to compete against schools with similar resources, especially in terms of student enrollment. To refer to Small College rugby clubs as Division 3 does not fully recognize their level of play, commitment to the sport and accomplishments both on and off the pitch, especially in the eye of the general public.

While there are some NSCRO playoff eligible small colleges that are capable of competing against Division 1 and 2 teams, few can sustain this level of play season after season. NSCRO absolutely encourages all colleges, regardless of their size, to play at the highest level possible. Many clubs that have found success in the NSCRO playoffs have moved up to Division 2 and NSCRO applauds them for doing so.

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