Women's Premier League 2016: 5th Place Preview

The 8th annual Women’s Premier League (WPL) championship is set for Friday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 13 at Life University in Marietta, Ga. Each of the eight teams will play two games, with either the championship title or 5th place as the prize for an undefeated weekend. Atlanta, Berkeley, D.C. Furies and Oregon Rugby Sports Union (ORSU) will by vying for 5th place (read more on the championship semifinals).

ORSU and Atlanta ended their regular seasons 2-4, and their victories came against the 0-6 All Blues and Furies, respectively. On Friday, ORSU will play D.C., and Atlanta will play Berkeley.

“Definitely a rebuilding year,” ORSU captain Rachel Johnson classified the season. “A few ORSU players were absent this season either due to injury or retirement, so we have been experimenting with newer and/or younger players in some key positions, including a very new front three. Although at times there is a lot of learning to be done, our coaches have really stepped up in their coaching roles, and the team has been very responsive and positive in our growth.”

ORSU took a hit when player/coach San Juanita Moreno suffered an ACL injury during the summer. The silver lining, however, was more dedicated attention to her coaching role, and paired with player/coach Beckett Royce, the duo placed a simpler, approachable game plan in front of the younger team.

“Although unfortunate, San Juanita’s ACL injury gave her some more sideline experience where she was able to hone her analyzing and feedback skills, especially for our newer players in the front three,” Johnson explained. “Additionally, she has approached drills with individuals in mind, formulating specific expectations and encouragement tailored for each back line player.”

Johnson pointed to fullback Molly Luft as her on-field partner in terms of leadership, and welcomed the return of Te Awhina Ho Chee, as well as Moreno toward the end of the season, for their veteran insight. It allowed breakout performances from lock Candace Mahoney-Watson, hooker/flanker Paris Hart and scrumhalf Claire Lundy.

ORSU is coming off of a 24-12 win over Berkeley in round six of league and prepares for the D.C. Furies in the semifinals. D.C., too, has been rebuilding this year, and it’s a process with which captain Sharifa Love-Schnur is familiar.

“There are a decent amount of new faces, a lot of young players this year, but D.C. always suffers from a transient population,” said the captain, who’s been with the team since 2009. “It’s definitely frustrating, to work on things over the course of the season and make progress, and then have a large amount of personnel change. You can’t maintain momentum. You have to reset and start over.”

But Schnur also recognized the opportunity for younger players to step into leadership roles, and focused on that goal toward growth. Providence transfer Michelle Vander Ploeg has flourished in the flyhalf position and directs the back line well. Wing Leni Dworkis upped her contributions this season, and No. 8 Maggie Olney has been integral in directing the forwards.

Despite the highlights, the Furies struggled to score points this season – just 38 across six games. Finishing scoring opportunities was an area of concern that coach Jo Bader had noted prior to the season.

“Everyone is committed and everyone is excited about getting better,” Schnur summarized the team attitude. “No one is satisfied where we ended our regular season. We all want to grow … and we’re taking a positive and fun team attitude [to nationals].”

On the other side bracket, Berkeley is playing in the fifth-place tier for the first time in the competition’s history. The winner of the 2011 and 2012 WPL trophies, the All Blues went winless through regular season.

Eagle hooker Katy Augustyn confirmed that the season’s been a little rough for the team in transition.

“We lost quite a few players to retirement, school and injury,” Augustyn compared the roster to a year ago. “We have a lot of new faces, some who have played before, others who are relatively new to the game. Obviously it’s frustrating to lose games, but I am really proud of the team.”

That pride originates from the collaboration occurring between the generations of players. Familiar names like Katie Chou, Allison Byrne, Ardia Kelker and Frieda Fetu’u, among others, are helping along developing talent. The All Blues were fortunate to acquire deft flyhalf Lauren Rhode, who has called New York, D.C. and San Diego her home the last few years.

“The younger players are not afraid to ask questions, are really accepting of constructive criticism, and are continually showing improvement on the field,” Augustyn added. “There is no doubt in my mind that this is just a transition phase for the Berkeley All Blues and you’ll see the team continue to improve and excel in the upcoming seasons just like they have in the past.”

Atlanta head coach Phil Thiel has been pleased with the progress that the Harlequins have made this season, and it nearly culminated in a come-from-behind victory over the Twin Cities Amazons (18-17 loss) in round six. In the teams’ first meeting, Atlanta relinquished 38 points, and Thiel pointed to a massively improved, physical defense for closing the gap.

“The second big thing to improve is our desire to go forward with ball in hand,” Thiel said. “It’s really great to see people go hard toward the line and really want to go forward. They’re playing rugby the way it should be played.”

Thiel recognized forwards like captain Maggie Craig, No. 8 Kimberly Knipe and flanker Liz Snodgrass for setting the example in work ethic and aggression. In the backs, the coach has cheered the players’ adaptability. Players moved around and has finally seen a healthy Becky Martin settle into flyhalf; Laoise O’Driscoll (with the stellar boot) grow into inside center; a natural, hard-running center, Lara Gartner is leaving her mark at fullback; and wing Meredith Whitten is flourishing outside of her comfort zone. Meanwhile, Monique Compito has dazzled at outside center.

Atlanta has two more opportunities to further that upward trajectory, and the Harlequins will do it in front of a hometown crowd. Atlanta plays the first game of the day Friday at 10 a.m. Eastern against Berkeley. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Women's Premier League 2016: Championships Preview

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) will host its eighth national championship Friday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 13 at Life University in Marietta, Ga. The eight-team competition is split into two tiers and begins with championship and fifth-place semifinals on day one. Either Glendale, New York, San Diego or Twin Cities will be crowned the 2016 champion.

Watch the WPL Championships LIVE on >>>

Two-time reigning champion Glendale (5-1) takes on Red Conference winner New York (6-0) on one side of the bracket. First-year WPL coach Kittery Ruiz promoted some developmental players to the top side and added new talent like Justine Wypych and Melissa Polheber (Wisconsin alumnae), all of whom were influential early on. Halfway through the season, Hannah Stolba and Kristen Shalosky returned from New Zealand, and 7s and 15s Eagle Carmen Farmer put on the Glendale jersey. They helped drive an undefeated record heading into the final league match against San Diego. But in round six, the Surfers defeated the Raptors 45-15.

“We knew the game against San Diego was going to be a hard-fought game,” Glendale co-captain Christen Suda reflected. “We came out flat and our defense let us down in the first half. It was great to see the girls fight back in the second half. They showed a great deal of determination and tenacity, which will be needed during the upcoming weekend.”

Suda wasn’t disheartened in the loss and viewed the team’s shortcomings as easily fixable. When Glendale returned to the practice pitch, trainings focused on defensive structure and tackling fundamentals.

“The outcome against San Diego was not what we wanted, yet, it might have been what we needed to get us mentally prepared for nationals,” the outside center added. “I personally think that we have a very strong team with a lot of heart. Even in defeat, we saw a lot of positives, which we will build upon this week.”

New York knows something about rebounding. After finishing 0-8 two seasons ago, then finishing fourth overall in 2015, New York is back to the winning ways that marked their 2009 and 2010 title runs. That rebuild attracted stellar talent – from Australian internationals like Brooke Saunders and Ayden Bain, to current Eagles Kate Daley and Alycia Washington, and the return of Phaidra Knight in this year alone. There was already an excellent base in players like captain Tiffany Faaee, Mary McCarthy, Shelby Lin, Cynthia Wright, among many others.

The league took notice when New York defeated Twin Cities 42-15 in Minnesota and then repeated with a 62-24 victory at home. New York was the only team to bank six bonus-point wins.

“All season we’ve focused on the next job. We set a goal to win our conference, which we did, but going into nationals as the only team without a loss has the girls hungry to keep raising that bar,” Faaee relayed. “We’ve been working on getting our game right, being clinical with our processes and making sure we focus on our jobs and not the outcome.

“It’s going to be a tough game against the defending champions. Glendale have some strong players. We know if we want to do well, we need to work harder and play smarter,” the captain added. “The team feels ready. We can’t wait to get out there and play.”

San Diego and Twin Cities will conclude the first day of competition. The Surfers’ season started with a two-point loss to Glendale on the road, but the result was the mark of a new team still finding its rhythm. San Diego inherited players from the USA Women’s National Team’s developing 15s residency for forwards, and saw players like Hope Rogers, Sam Pankey, Molly Kinsella and Jordan Gray (who ended up playing in the backs) join the team. Paired with young talent like Matelina Maluia and WPL newcomer Kate Zachary, the pack coalesced into a formidable force.

San Diego has always had a good back line, and this year it’s directed by halfbacks Liz Trujillo and Hunter Griendling. Although the Surfers will be missing Deven Owsiany to injury, the centers have seen 7s Eagle Dana Meschisi and Gray work well together. They were influential in the team’s 30-point win over Glendale to end the season.

“The outcome of game six was very exciting,” Trujillo confirmed. “The initial loss to Glendale was hard to swallow, so once we got back to San Diego we focused on refining our game plan. We are proud of the work the team has put forth. We’ve connected well with multiple combinations, but we still have a few more games to concentrate on, and we know they won’t be easy.”

Twin Cities has been experimenting with lineups this season and re-examined its offense after the first regular-season loss to New York. Although there are several veterans in the back line – captain Sylvia Braaten, Katana Howard, Jacie Vonada, Rachel Lentsch, Kaelene Lundstrum – finding the right combinations became a priority.

“Yes, this season may have seen more adjustments than in years past, as we have more players moving up in the ranks and earning playing time with our WPL side,” Braaten explained. “We’ve had many moments of great play this season as well as moments where we have been tested.”

One of those tests came against Atlanta in the final round of league play. After trailing 5-3 at the half, the Minnesota side took an 18-5 lead after Vonada kicked her second penalty (and later a conversion), and lock Marina McCluskey and No. 8 Tupouahau Paea scored. In the fourth quarter, the Harlequins rallied with two tries to pull within one, 18-17, and Twin Cities’ defense had to hold off an eager host.

Twin Cities has encountered more competition this season than recent years, but like the rest of the 2016 semifinalists have shown, a little adversity can go a long way in terms of motivation and preparation.

“Looking forward to this weekend, we know the competition at nationals will be very strong and for us to have success we will need to focus on the basics, play together, and battle from the very first whistle until the last,” Braaten concluded.

For more information on the WPL championship, CLICK HERE.

WPL Player of the Week: Monique Compito

During the final round of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) all eyes were on the Glendale vs. San Diego rematch, but the best game of round six occurred in Atlanta. The Harlequins rallied in the final 15 minutes to nearly overtake the Twin Cities Amazons. The hosts fell just short, 18-17, but the effort highlighted a much improved Atlanta side with a solid work ethic. The effort also highlighted Player of the Week Monique Compito, who has popped up in every opponent’s feedback this season.

On Sunday, Atlanta took a 5-3 lead into halftime, and then Twin Cities responded with the next 15 points to lead 18-5 by the third quarter.

“The only thing I’ve ever asked for as a coach is that people give everything they have,” said Atlanta head coach Phil Thiel. “As a coaching staff, we’ll work on the pieces that need to be improved – whether it’s handling or decision-making – and work up to the larger game-plan stuff. The Quins have never given up – and they never will. … I’m really proud of their effort.”

Atlanta remained disciplined, and continued to keep its width and move the ball. The hosts kept attacking, and during the final 15 minutes of play outside center Compito finished off the phases with two tries.

“She’s a classic, shorter-build person who is absolutely powerful,” Thiel said. “She has great footwork skills and the ability to win those one-on-one battles. She uses that footwork on defense, too, and gets in front of people and makes that tackle against larger players.

“Some players have raw athleticism but don’t know how to use it,” the coach added. “She has great feet, balance and intelligence, and knows how to use her body, how to find space and beat people one on one. She needs to continue to work on her basic skills – they’re not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but if they’re elevated, then she’ll be nearly unstoppable.”

Fall 2016 marks Compito’s first season in the WPL, and she ended league play with five tries. She’s a great weapon, but Thiel also lauded her emotional assets.

“She is super positive all of the time and that helps create a positive rugby environment,” the coach said. “In the beginning of the season, you want to stay positive and focus on improvement, and now we’re trying to push more high performance, where we’re more critical of ourselves – but always positive. She’s a light bulb, super bright all of the time, and is great to coach.”

That combination of skill, know-how and positivity is reason enough for Thiel to recommend Compito to the higher-ups.

“If I was a USA Rugby coach, I would have her on the radar right now,” Thiel said. “Even if you didn’t choose her, I would want her in camp. She brings so many positive intangibles – such a good attitude, loves to train hard – that she would make the camp a good experience for others.”

Fortunately for Compito and teammates, the national team selectors are heading to the Harlequins’ backyard next week. The WPL championships occur Nov. 11 and Nov. 13 at Life University.

Women's Premier League 2016: Week 6 Recap

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.

WPL Player of the Week: Kate Zachary

The fifth round of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) officially ended on Saturday, when San Diego traveled to Oregon Rugby Sports Union (ORSU) while the rest of the league enjoyed a bye. The Surfers triumphed 45-0 and that concentration of attention also highlighted the Player of the Week, Kate Zachary.

San Diego took a 19-0 halftime lead, sending hooker Sam Pankey, lock Melissa Quiroz and No. 8 Matelina Maluia over for tries. Fullback Tia Blythe kicked two of her five conversions in the first 40.

“ORSU is always tough opposition, particularly at home, but we just came out ready from the starting whistle,” San Diego coach Jarrod Faul said. “We played with a lot of intensity the first half. We did a good job of keeping the ball alive, and the ball movement was good as well. On defense, we put good pressure on them. We probably had one of our best 40 minutes all season.”

Scrumhalf Elizabeth Trujillo opened up the second-half scoring three minutes in, and then prop Hope Rogers dotted down back-to-back tries. Forward reserve Kara Mathews scored the final try in the waning minutes. Although the team recorded more points in the second half, coach Faul was less happy with the team’s execution.

“We blew some try-scoring opportunities,” the coach explained. “We had good go-forward and didn’t finish because of passes going astray. We just didn’t take our chances when they were given to us.”

Even though San Diego’s offense wasn’t as consistent in the second half, the defense was sound.

“That was the most pleasing aspect – keeping them out of the try zone,” Faul said. “That was a goal of ours, to hold them.”

San Diego is now 4-1 and guaranteed a championship semifinal berth. Reflecting on the season thus far and Saturday in particular, Faul nominated flanker Kate Zachary as MVP.

“She’s been outstanding for us all season, especially since she came in with no [senior-level] 15s experience,” Faul said of the USA 7s Eagle. “She’s been consistently one of our strongest performers. Every week she does a superb job of giving us go-forward – she always gets past the gain line. It’s really impressive.”

Even though Zachary is competing in her first WPL season, she’s a familiar face. The 27-year-old earned her first 7s caps in Atlanta during the 2014-15 Women’s Sevens Series, and the 7s prop injected a lot of power onto the pitch. The Kansas native joined the 15s pool as well, and when she aligned with San Diego, USA Women’s 15s coach Pete Steinberg requested to see her developed at flanker. Zachary’s been there ever since, bringing an attractive blend of 7s field vision and loose forward aggression.

“She’s got a good awareness,” Faul said of the 7s Eagle. “She’s good at identifying the holes and hitting them. She’s got a turn of pace, too, and is tough to take down. She fights for every inch.

“And she’s equally impressive on defense. She brings a lot of physicality,” the coach added. “Right now, she’s one of the best number 7s in the nation. She’s dedicated, has a great attitude and just adds a tremendous value to the Surfers.”

San Diego will test itself this weekend, as the rematch with Glendale looms. The Surfers dropped the opener in Colorado after building a big lead, but now the Raptors are traveling to California, and there’s some redemption at stake.

“There are always areas you can improve, but I’m certainly happy with where we are right now,” Faul concluded. “Glendale has always been in the back of our mind but we’ve been taking it one game at a time. Girls are definitely ready for the rematch. We just have to stick to our systems, stay patient on attack, build pressure and nail those opportunities when they come up. From a defensive perspective, we have to shut down their space and limit their opportunities. Glendale is very good at taking your mistakes and converting them into points. We really have to be on top of our game.”

Both San Diego and Glendale will represent the Blue Conference in the championship semifinals. ORSU, which travels to Berkeley Saturday, will join the All Blues in the fifth place semifinals. In the Red Conference, New York and Twin Cities will compete in the championship semifinals, while Atlanta and the D.C. Furies play for fifth place. The Harlequins host the Amazons in Sunday’s Round 6 match-up, while the Furies head north to New York. The WPL championship will occur Nov. 11 and Nov. 13 in Marietta, Ga.

Women's Premier League 2016: Week 5 Recap

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) saw six of eight teams in action during round five, and the results have determined whether teams will be competing toward the championship title or fifth place. As is typically the case, the bonus points were influential in the standings.

The game of the weekend occurred in the Red Conference, as New York (5-0) and Twin Cities Amazons (3-2) lined up for their rematch on Randall’s Island. Akin to the round-three showdown, the Amazons exerted themselves early in the match, putting down the first two tries to lead, 10-0.

“We sometimes have a tendency to start slow and that was definitely the case today,” said New York’s Phaidra Knight, who played her first game at hooker Sunday. “The Amazons brought it to us from the start of the game – same as when we played in Minnesota and for a similar period of time. But we remained composed throughout … even when they surged toward the end of the game. We got our wheels turning and played the way we needed to play.”

Prop Ashley Nesby got the home team on the board with a try, and then Knight followed with the first of her two first-half tries. The Eagle pointed to Nesby’s score as the catalyst that shifted momentum into New York’s favor.

“After the Amazons scored their second try, we made some adjustments,” Knight explained. “We needed to settle defensively, but, on offense, we needed to do a better job maintaining the ball when we went to ground – getting there quicker. Some basics, too – like looking before you pass – were part of the progression, and once we started doing those things we retained more possession and started to sync.”

New York led, 12-10, with Ayden Bain’s conversion, until Twin Cities outside center Jacie Vonada scored her side’s third try (17-12). Knight was particularly complimentary of the Twin Cities center duo between Vonada and captain Sylvia Braaten at No. 12, and also noted fly half Katana Howard’s rumbling runs.

The final lead change occurred when flyhalf Mary McCarthy converted wing Nicole Humphrey’s try. Knight and Humphrey scored again before the break, and with another Bain conversion, New York led, 31-17, after 40 minutes.

New York came out firing in the second half, sending wing Kassidi Wynter in for the first score of the period. Full back Emily Magee and lock Alycia Washington added two tries apiece, and Bain and McCarthy continued to share time on the tee. Twin Cities scored a fourth try for the bonus point, and New York won, 62-24.

“We can always be critical, but I think people are happy,” Knight said of the team’s current status. “Everyone recognizes that we’re not peaking yet. We have moments of brilliance in the game, and then moments of, ‘Geez, we’re not executing the basics.’ We have so much potential for growth. We’re taking each game one at a time and treating it like it’s the most important one of the season.”

New York has guaranteed its berth to the championship semifinals, as has Twin Cities. Even though the Red Conference’s Amazons and Atlanta Harlequins could end the season with 3-3 records, the Minnesota team has a seven-point, insurmountable lead in the standings.

Atlanta (2-3) traveled to the D.C. Furies (0-5) for its fifth-round match and returned to Georgia with a 19-0 win. All of the Harlequins’ points were scored in the first half. The back three did well to finish off opportunities, as wings Robbyn Keating and Alison Price and full back Meredith Whitten dotted down the tries. Laoise O’Driscoll, who shifted from fly half to inside center and paired nicely with regular full back Lara Gartner at No. 13, knocked over the conversions. Atlanta will play its next three games at home – the final league match against Twin Cities, and then its two championship games at Life University Nov. 11-13.

The Blue Conference contested one match, as San Diego Surfers (3-1) and Oregon Rugby Sports Union (ORSU) (1-3) scheduled their fifth-round match during the bye week (Oct. 22). It was a fortuitous shift, as all matches at The Farm, ORSU’s home pitch, were cancelled due to rain this weekend. Even though the Surfers and ORSU could end the season with identical records, like Twin Cities and Atlanta, the bonus points have already determined the teams’ post-season paths. San Diego has a 12-point lead over ORSU in the standings and will advance to the championship semifinals alongside the Blue Conference’s Glendale Raptors.

The Raptors (5-0) played their final home match on Saturday and celebrated with a 77-5 win over Berkeley All Blues (0-5). Glendale scored from everywhere, and saw five forwards and five backs account for the tries. Full back Colleen Cribbs, prop Melissa Polheber, and outside center and co-captain Christen Suda scored two tries apiece. The pack put No. 8 Taryn Brennan, prop and co-captain Sarah Chobot, flanker Carmen Farmer, and lock Kristen Shalosky into the try zone. Fly half Hannah Stolba led all point-scorers with 17 on a try and six conversions, while wing Denali Graham and reserve wing Justine Wypych added tries for the backs.

Berkeley prevented the shutout in minute 24, when wing Serena Liu dotted down to bring the score line to 22-5.

When the entire league resumes Oct. 29-30, the big game will occur between Glendale and San Diego in California. The result will, potentially, only affect the seeding heading into the championship semifinals, but will be an excellent gauge of how the Blue Conference’s two best teams have transformed during the fall.