The Women’s Premier League (WPL) has concluded its regular season – six games over eight weeks. The final round included an array of outcomes, from a shutout to a one-point win, and served as a last look at teams before the championships on Nov. 11-13 in Marietta, Ga.
New York was the only team to go 6-0 and sealed its undefeated season with a 67-0 win over the D.C. Furies Sunday. The home side scored two tries in the opening five minutes, as lock Brooke Saunders and wing Kassidi Wynter dotted down. New York then averaged a try per 10 minutes for the rest of the half, as flanker Cynthia Wright, wing Angela Yue and No. 8 Phaidra Knight scored, and flyhalf Kristen Siano kicked two conversions for the 29-0 lead.
Two minutes after the break, lock Alycia Washington scored the first of her two tries. Backs Emily Magee, Jess Berry and Nicole Humphrey scored before game’s end, as did captain Tiffany Faaee. Siano ended the day with six conversions.
As the Red Conference winner, New York will face Blue Conference runner-up Glendale during the championship semifinals on Nov. 11. The Raptors ended the season 5-1, experiencing its first loss against San Diego Saturday.
The teams’ first game against each other occurred in week one and ended up being one of the most thrilling matches of the season. Saturday’s rematch served as a gauge: How have the two best teams in the conference improve since their season opener?
“I think the biggest difference between those two games was the fact that we didn’t let up,” San Diego hooker Sam Pankey contrasted Saturday’s 45-15 win with the two-point loss in week one. “In the first game we seemed to let up in the second half and shifted into a coast, whereas yesterday we kept our collective foot on the gas. Our defense has become more consistent as well. We held Glendale out of the try zone on several occasions within our five-meter zone. We’ve really hit our stride in our last two games. We feed off each other’s energy and have become relentless in pushing the pace of the game.”
The Surfers did not hesitate from the opening whistle and sent outside center into the try zone two minutes in. Pankey followed two minutes later with the first of her two tries, and before the first quarter ended, wing Kyla Roth scored and fullback Tia Blythe added two conversions, 19-0. Glendale got on the board 30 minutes in when flyhalf Hannah Stolba kicked a penalty, but San Diego had the final say of the half, as No. 8 Matelina Maluia scored. Blythe’s conversion gave the home side a 26-3 into the break.
Pankey scored her second try two minutes into the second half, and then Glendale put down two tries from wing Denali Graham and scrumhalf Jenny Lui (31-15). The Raptors’ tries were separated by 20 minutes, and in between, San Diego ran on fresh legs in the form of Talia Carrasquillo, Melissa Quiroz, Kara Mathews and Danielle Miano.
The 31-15 scoreline held through regulation, but San Diego added two more tries from Miano and inside center Jordan Gray in injury time. Blythe finished with five conversions.
The bonus-point win, in addition to the bonus-point loss gained in week one, put San Diego at the top of the table. The Surfers will play Red Conference runner-up Twin Cities in the championship semifinal.
The Amazons just held off Atlanta in an 18-17 decision Sunday to finish 4-2 on the season. The hosts held a 5-3 halftime lead, as Allison Price’s try put the Harlequins in front, and Jacie Vonada slotted a penalty for Twin Cities.
In the course of approximately 10 minutes, the Amazons added 15 points through another Vonada penalty, and tries from lock Marina McCuskey and No. 8 Tupouahau Paea. Vonada’s conversion made it 18-5 heading into the fourth quarter.
Atlanta surged into action, producing more line-breaks and working in a strong bench. Outside center Monique Compito scored two tries, finishing a Liz Snodgrass run and capitalizing on a quick penalty. Flyhalf Laoise O’Driscoll was able to add one conversion for the 18-17 finish.
“It was definitely a battle the entire game,” Twin Cities captain Sylvia Braaten reported. “It’s always a physical match when playing Atlanta. They played fast and did well isolating our ball-runners to make us have to really fight for possession. Their 13 [Compito] had great lines of attack and was a threat with ball in hand. Our kicking was crucial and fortunately for us – Jacie Vonada slotted two penalty kicks and had a great conversion on our last try to put us just out of reach in the end.”
Atlanta finished third in the Red Conference and will play the Blue Conference’s fourth-place team, Berkeley, in the fifth-place semifinals at nationals. ORSU is joining the All Blues in the second-tier playoffs, and the duo finished their regular seasons against each other Sunday.
The teams’ first meeting ended in a 34-12 victory to ORSU, and the follow-up in northern California saw a repeat win for the Oregon side, 24-12. It was the closest outcome for the All Blues, which ended the season 0-6. The Jesters finished 2-4.
Teams will now have the following two weeks to tune up for the national championship at Life University. Stay tuned for a closer look at all the WPL teams and previews for the opening round of playoffs.