Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MARFU U23 Takes 2nd Straight NASC Title!

The 2008 MARFU U23 squad put up two scoreless performances to claim their 2nd straight Under- 23 National All Star Championship title.

In round one, MARFU faced a very physical Pacific team. The scoring was opened up by JMU fullback Meghan Newton, who downed the ball in the corner after several phases open up space wide. Meghan was able to hand-off the last defenders and put herself in.

After the first half, MARFU used their forwards to increase the pace of the game, and slowly began opening space. Pacific did not back down, and after a string penalties pinned MARFU in their own end, it looked like Pacific might tie it up. The tide turned when JMU's Julia Swavola poached Pacific ball out of a ruck, and PSU lock Kara Bodison quickly moved the ball to Westchester's Steph Burkhardt, who has space in front of her. Steph dashed to the undefended Pacific try zone, using a subtle angle change to beat the chasing Pacific fullback in a 95 meter footrace.

MARFU's last try occurred after solid scrum with a right hand bling. Flyhalf Megan Newton ran right, recived the ball from Annie Ziegler and transfered it quickly to inserting Shippensburg fullback Natalie Monriog. As the Pacific defense slid to cover Daniell on the wing, Natalie attacked the seam between the defenders and swerved past the last Pacific player to ground the ball. The score was now 15-0, where it would remain.

After pool recovery/video session on Saturday morning, the team took the afternoon off to decompress, rest their bodies, and mentally prepare for Sunday.

The Midwest defeated Southern Cal 25-7 to win a berth in the Championship, and MARFU knew they'd have to fix some things to be successful. After our video session we agreed that our scrum engagements needed to be faster, our ball placement and rucking more precise, and our defense would need to vastly improve. The team gathered early in the morning to walk through defensive fixes and put in place communication cues to keep us on task and honest in defense.

Quickly after the kickoff it was apparent the Midwest was going to be hard and physical, and that they would look to play a continuous vertical game. Our defensive alignment, positioning, and pace were vastly improved, which resulted in several midwest turnovers behind the gain line. Through the first few minutes of the game MARFU was on defense, but managed to push the Midwest attack further and further towards their 22. Finally, MARFU had a short lineout in their attacking 22. The ball was caught nicely by Kara, and a big drive from Katy Black saw her explode off the back of the lineout. A quick ruck ensured, an Kara picked the ball of the base and dove in for the first try of the game. The try was converted by Natalie Monroig.

MARFU continued thier pressure off the ensuing kickoff, and soon found themselves with a left side 5 meter scrum. Off a beautiful driving platform, PSU's Kate Daley picked to the strong side and dived tryzone for MARFU's second try. The try was also converted by Natalie.

The Midwest continued it's pressure, but MARFU's defense was able to force Midwest into playing backwards. When a Midwest handling error gave MARFU it's second 5 meter scrum of the first half, number 8 Kate Daley switched things up, this time going week off the drive to ground the ball. MARFU 19, MIDWEST 0.

After the half MARFU continued to see the pass in the forwards. After an attempted running blind side attack was foiled, the forwards move the ball up the far sidelines. With the goal line in site, lock Blyth Hagan this time picked and dived for MARFU's 4th try.

As the game wound down and the Midwest began to show it's fatigue, MARFU used its backs to stretch the defense and force the Midwest forwards to run. After several barely-made-it-passes, powerful center Moira Somerdyk recieved a ball wide and dove between two Midwest defenders's into the tryzone. Final score: MARFU U23 29, MIDWEST U23 0.

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