The fifth week of the Women’s Premier League has elapsed, and now all 10 teams have completed the first half of their regular seasons. The closest game of the weekend again involved Berkeley, which was coming off of a two-point loss to Glendale in week four.
“Recovering from that loss with Glendale was, surprisingly, easy,” Berkeley head coach João Moura explained. “The team realized it was a close game and could have gone either way. … It was a good learning moment for us and one more step in our season’s path, providing us with a good opportunity for another hard but motivated week of work preparing the game with San Diego.”
The Surfers traveled to the Bay Area and took the first lead through a Megan Foster try. The All Blues then spent the subsequent 30 minutes setting up four scores: two tries from New York transfer Kristen Siano, and one apiece from Allison Byrne and Bulou Mataitoga. Siano also added two conversions for the team’s 24 points.
“On one hand, we focused essentially on what has been our strengths: An organized defense trying to reduce spaces and take advantage of the good work the forwards have done in the set piece to enable us to play with quality ball,” Moura reviewed team foci. “On the other hand, and perhaps most importantly, was to continue to improve each player’s capacity to maintain mental toughness through the whole game. In both of these two aspects, the team was amazing!”
San Diego responded through a Foster penalty and tries from Teigan MacDonald and Julia Buescher, but Berkeley held on for the 24-18 win. Berkeley (2-2) got the bonus point for four tries and sit in third place in the WPL West, while 1-3 San Diego got the bonus point for a loss by fewer than seven points.
The Merlins are 3-1 sit in second place in the WPL West behind 4-0 Life West. The 0-4 Jesters are looking for their first win of the season. New York and Beantown kicked it off with a Saturday night game.
“We’re still building confidence in our attack, so there was a huge focus on defense,” New York head coach Tiff Faaee said of work leading into the match. “We’ve been very good with chaos rugby at the moment – putting the pressure on, creating turnover ball, and then seeing if we can score. If we do that, then the offense will come.”
Host Beantown took the first lead as flyhalf Tatjana Toeldte slotted a penalty. Minutes later, wing Sarah Levy scored for the lead change and lock Alycia Washington dotted down to close out the half, 10-3 to New York. Both defenses stood the test for the majority of the second half, but then in the waning minutes, New York broke through for back-to-back tries from Gio Cruz and Misha Green. Flyhalf Tess Feury’s conversion afforded the 22-3 win and the bonus point moved 2-2 New York into second place in the standings.
“They were having fun,” Faaee noted a change in the team’s demeanor. “The WPL makes people anxious at the start because it’s next level, and college kids are coming through and they need to adjust. Now that we’re in game four, there’s more clarity and confidence, and you’re hearing more voices on the pitch. There’s more positive reinforcement, because everyone’s doing their job, and it showed in the result.” Twin Cities and Beantown are also 2-2 in the WPL East, and all conference members have at least one win. Atlanta (3-1) leads and logged its third victory of the season, defeating the 1-3 Chicago North Shore 22-7 on the road.
“Conditions were wet, as there was a big storm the night and morning before kickoff, so it was hard to maintain continuity with a number of handling errors,” Atlanta coach Ros Chou noted. “North Shore was skilled in attacking our breakdowns forcing turnovers. Their goal-line defense was like a brick wall, and with the wet conditions we didn’t have a ton of success moving the ball to the edges like we normally would do.”
With that said, wing Mo Compito scored minutes into the match and established a lead that Atlanta would not relinquish. A trio of Harlequins debutants – New York transfer Shamira Robles, Beantown transfer Kelli Smith, North Shore transfer Christiane Pheil – added dimension to the game, and Robles scored two first-half tries. Flyhalf Corinne Heavner kicked a conversion for 17 points in the first stanza. Host North Shore broke up Robles’ tries with a converted score to keep it close but then lock Lisa Jackson put the game away with a bonus point-awarding try.
“Last year I think we only had one win on the road and it was against the D.C. Furies,” Chou reflected. “To have two road wins has definitely been a morale boost, and the excitement on the team continues to build. We are getting more familiar with each other, and look forward to be full steam ahead when we get Darian Lovelace and Chi Chi Chukwueke back in the mix [from injury]. Selections will get more difficult, but we have a group ready to step up to the challenge and ready to keep improving every week.”
WEEK 6 MATCHES
Beantown (2-2) @ Atlanta (3-1)
Berkeley (2-2) @ ORSU (0-4)
Glendale (3-1) @ Life West (4-0)
Chicago North Shore (1-3) @ Twin Cities (2-2)