2019 Women's Pool Previews - Collegiate Rugby Championship
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LINDENWOOD

  • Head coach: Billy Nichola
  • Banners: 2018 Champions, 4 finals appearances

After losing three straight finals, Lindenwood traded the bridesmaid dress for the gown last year, claiming its first-ever CRC title. With the men winning, too, it marked the first time a school has claimed both the men’s and women’s titles. The Lions took down Penn State 21-12 to claim the championship. It was revenge for 2015, when Penn State beat Lindenwood in the final. Lindenwood is the heavy favorite to win this pool, and many expect them to repeat as champions.

Why? Their roster is simply loaded. McKenzie Hawkins and Annakaren Pedraza are both capped for the 15s national team, Caring De Freitas is capped for Venezuela, and Tersa Bueso is capped for Spain’s 7s side. Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru and Nika Paogofie Buyten are All-Americans. But the biggest star on the roster is Richelle Stephens. She joined Lindenwood after representing Team USA at the Rio Olympics in 2016. If she’s available and fit, she’s the most dangerous player in the tournament.

VIRGINIA TECH

  • Head coach: Player led

The Hokies return to the CRC for the second year in a row, hoping to build on a promising 3-3 start in 2018. Tech went 2-1 in pool play, earning wins over Bloomsburg and Drexel, only falling to defending champ Life. In the quarterfinals, the Hokies would fall to eventual champion Lindenwood, and then Navy in the fifth-place semifinal before ending the tournament on a high note with a win over Boston. The Hokies have had a successful spring, reaching the 15s final where they were bested by BYU. They’ve also enjoyed success in 7s, winning the Queens Cup tournament over a couple of other CRC participants.

Unlike everyone else in the tournament, Virginia Tech does not have a coach. Manager and president Kirnjot Kaur is also the team captain and flyhalf. The senior facilitates the team’s attack and defense, taking on much of the leadership mantle. Gracie Pierce is a lock in 15s, which makes her on the larger end in 7s. She’s a tough tackle. Co-captain and All-American Amelia Friese is another forward in 15s who shines in the breakdown. Congetta Owens is a heavy tackler, and Sadie Slavin is a Philadelphia product with speed to burn.

QUEENS

  • Head coach: Katie Wurst

Queens is a second-year varsity program out of Charlotte, N.C. headed by Katie Wurst. The Royals are joining the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association next fall, the home of all official NCAA varsity programs. This spring, they’ve posted a 7s record of 6-2, coming in second in their own tournament and going undefeated at the Mason Dixon qualifier. In doing so, they notched a win over fellow CRC participant Navy but fell to poolmate Virginia Tech. As a new program, Queens is young, graduating its first-ever players this spring.

Junior center Antares Lance brings well-rounded athleticism to the table, having played soccer, volleyball and basketball in high school. Abby Tobias is a former track athlete who is one of the Royals’ leading scorers both with ball in hand and off the foot, as she takes the team’s conversions. Freshman Teaghan Steele is a local product from York Springs, Pa. She played in this event as a high schooler. Bridget Mielke is another key playmaker who oftens lines up at flyhalf.

ST. JOSEPH’S

  • Head coach: Corey Phalen
  • Asst coach: Chris Gagnie

The women from St. Joe’s are joining their men’s team in the competition this year. The Hawks come in with a young squad, filled by eight sophomores, two juniors, one freshman a lone senior. The team is improving every week, though, and has bagged some victories this spring, finishing third in the first round of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference series and seventh overall. The Hawks have amassed a 3-4-1 record so far this spring.

The lone senior is Alyssa Lamont, who can play in the halfbacks or up front in the scrum. She is an attack-minded player that looks to set others up. She’s not shy in contact and excels in defense. Junior scrumhalf Kathryn Svoboda creates for her teammates and is one of the team’s surest tacklers. Sophomore prop Erin Hicks is one the team’s surest runners, especially when there’s contact involved. Sophomore prop Kayla Coan is another powerful ball carrier. She is a crash-ball and short yard power.

PENN STATE

  • Head coach: Kate Daley
  • Banners: 2013, 2014, 2015 Champion, 5 finals

The Nittany Lions were runners-up in the inaugural Women’s CRC in 2011, and they won the next three on the trot before moving over for Life and Lindenwood. Last year, Penn State returned to the final, falling 21-12 to Lindenwood. There’s little doubt the Nittany Lions will be in the mix as a contender once more, as they’re the heavy favorite to sweep Pool B. Penn State has played in six tournaments this spring, so preparation won’t be an issue, winning the Wolverine 7s, finishing third at Navy, fourth at Life and second at their home tournament.

Senior scrumhalf Sophie Pyrz plays with a relentless work ethic. She possesses great field vision and consistently executes her core skills. She is the glue that holds the team together, its most knowledgeable player. Junior Ellie Fromstein can line up anywhere, as her tough running and effectiveness in the breakdowns are a boon to any position. Fifth-year senior Gianna Soloman is another menace in the rucks. She creates a chunk of PSU’s possession in the breakdown, and she’s the team’s toughest ball carrier to bring down.

NAVY

  • Head coach: Murph McCarthy

The Midshipmen return for another shot at glory at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. Last year, they posted a 3-3 record, beating Clemson, Kutztown and Virginia Tech, while falling to the Penn Mutual NSCRO Select Side, Life and Notre Dame en route to a sixth-place finish. This spring has been an interesting one for Navy, with a new coach coming on board midway through the season, former men’s assistant Murph McCarthy. Through it, though, they’ve found success, winning two of the five 7s tournaments they’ve played this season; their own Navy Legacy 7s and Temple’s tournament. Along the way, the Mids have split with 2018 finalist Penn State, signaling they may be in line to go a step further than ever before.

LeeTasia Midgette is the plebe adding a ton of pace on the outside for Navy this season. Look for her to scorch the grass on the sides of the pitch. Seniors Tyiana Clark and Mercedes Banks-Hopkins are an important departing senior duo who have put in a lot of time and sweat equity for the Midshipmen over the years. Clark leads the team as the skipper, and Banks-hopkins is pacy. Sarah Skinner is another important cog in the Navy machine.

BLOOMSBURG

  • Head coach: Kevin Castner

The Huskies are back for their fourth-straight appearance at the CRC. Few teams have utilized the tournament as a vehicle for improvement more than Bloomsburg, which debuted with a winless pool showing in 2016. They reached the quarterfinals in 2017, and last year posted a 3-3 record, falling to Delaware, Life and Virginia Tech and beating Clemson, Temple and Drexel. The Huskies look better than ever so far this spring, posting a perfect 10-0 record in conference play, winning both legs of the tournament series. They finished second at the West Chester 7s and second at the Princeton Emperor Tournament, amassing a 19-8 record overall.

Leading the Huskies are a trio of upperclassmen. Junior sweeper Sarah Van Cise is evasive and speedy on the perimeter, and she provides a solid last line of defense. Senior flyhalf Atalyia Eisenhauer relishes the breakdowns and leads with her aggression. Junior prop Christiana Deo is a tough tackler, and on offense she uses her shoulders to bust holes in the opposing defense.

DREXEL

  • Head coach: Amy Cobb
  • Assistant coach: Sean Healy

The Dragons are looking to rebound from a winless showing at the 2018 Collegiate Rugby Championship. They picked up two wins in their debut in 2017, and with the help of some experienced leadership hope to return to the win column.

Junior Sanie Auguste is a standout for the 7s team. She emigrated to Philadelphia from Haiti. Ilana Granow is the team’s captain and president. The daughter of a rugby-playing father, her sport growing up was Kyokushin Karate. Dominique Shannon, a senior Health Science major, has been an inspiration to the team. A knee injury kept her from playing in her second-straight CRC last spring. She shed more than 35 pounds during her rehabilitation and is poised for a triumphant return to the pitch at Talen Energy Stadium.

LIFE

  • Head coach: Rosalind Chou
  • Assistant Coach(es): Andrew McNeil, Kimberly Knipe, Kevin Corley, Corinne Heavner
  • Banners: 2016, 2017 Champions, 2 finals, 3 semifinals, 3 quarterfinals

Two-time defending champion Life was unseated by rival Lindenwood in the semifinals last year, ending a dominant streak by the Running Eagles. They were just as dominant in pool play in 2018, outscoring opponents 151-0 in the group stage, and just three points separated them from a third-straight final. The Running Eagles are expected to challenge for the crown again this year, evidenced by two tournament championships this spring. They won Tropical 7s, went 5-0 at Penn State’s tournament and finished second at their own tournament with a 5-1 record.

While Life’s roster is deep all the way through, a few underclassmen stand out. Su Adegoke is a freshman from Brooklyn who can lineup anywhere in the backline. Her feet have been described as “magic”, as she uses her stepping ability to breakdown defenses. Sophomore Makayla Lowe is a heady player with a versatile skillset that includes kicking. Spanish sophomore Maria “Monster of Majadahonda” Marin Garcia is a relentless defender with a lethal chop tackle.

NOTRE DAME

  • Head coach: Ricardo Ramirez
  • Assistant Coach: Elizabeth Peterson
  • Banners: 2018 Plate Champion

The Fighting Irish went 4-2 last year, finishing in fifth place. Considering the strong field, they’ll have their work cut out for them to improve on that. Having the head coach of the U20 national team doesn’t hurt. Ricardo Ramirez was put at the helm of the Junior All-American program earlier this year. The Irish have prepared for the CRC with three tournaments so far this season. They won their own event, took third at Wolverine 7s and competed at Iowa 7s.

Junior Emma Shimek, sophomore Tori Jones, and senior Estephany Tan are three of Notre Dame’s top performers. Jones was pulled into the U20s orbit by Ramirez. She scored the walk-off try to deliver the Irish 7s final over Davenport. Shimek led the team in tries that tournament, dotting down eight times. Tan led them in scoring at the Wolverine 7s. Scout Muzikowski is a finalist for the Life of Significance Award, given annually to a player who upholds the values of rugby and title sponsor Penn Mutual. Muzikowski is being considered for her volunteer work with inner-city youth.

DELAWARE

  • Head coach: Chante Vann

The University of Delaware’s Women’s Rugby Football Club (UDWRFC) is a growing program encroaching on 26 years. Though the team has been around for nearly 3 decades, it has only recently began to play 7s. This spring, the Blue Hens have played in a handful of tournaments and prevailed against other CRC teams like Drexel and Kutztown. They strive for redemption against others, like Bloomsburg and Navy, both of which they’ve close games with throughout the season. This will be Delaware’s fifth appearance at the tournament, and the Hens have their sights set on finishing in the top six.

The rosters boasts highly experienced and skilled graduating seniors like Colton Moore and Alexa Craig, who have been the top scorers this season. Moore is a versatile player with the ability to flow seamlessly between the forwards and backs, and Craig is a speed merchant with evasive running skills. Pocket powerhouses like Daykia McKnight and Chloe Hoag are small but mighty and unafraid to go into contact with even the largest girls.

TEMPLE

  • Head coach: Justin Muldoon
  • Assistant coaches: Samantha Hoegle, Alexandra Knepper

A young Temple team is hoping to ride hometown support to a Cinderella performance at the CRC. The Owls have a talented team, but a young one including seven freshmen and zero seniors. So the team is starkly different than the one that went 1-5 last year, beating Drexel in the 15-place playoff to avoid last place. The Owls finished second in the Mid-Atlantic Conference 7s series, and they got some tougher competition under their belts at Navy Legacy 7s, too. They’ve compiled an in impressive 11-5 record along the way.

A trio of talented freshmen lead the Owls. Scrumhalf Genevieve Cohen has an incredible work rate and is effective on both sides of the ruck. You’ll likely hear her from the stands, too, as she communicates to her teammates. Miranda Kenny’s combination of pace and power slot her at prop some of the time and wing the rest. She is fast and strong in the tackle. Elise Kastner usually lines up at center. She is an excellent lineout operator, a dogged defender, and her agility is a weapon in attack.

Penn Mutual NSCRO Select Side

  • Head coach: Bryn Chivers, Jeff Noe
  • Assistant Coach: Mike Geibel

The Penn Mutual NSCRO Select Side is truly unique. Unlike all their opponents, they represent hundreds of small college programs as the best of the best of National Small College Rugby Organization, home to 18 women’s conferences coast to coast. The coaching and management staff is made up of coaches of multiple NSCRO programs, as well as the roster. Each year, they come together to test themselves against some of the best DI and DII programs in the country. Last year, they performed well, going undefeated in pool play and trouncing Notre Dame 33-0 before losing to Penn State in the semifinals and Life in the third-place match. The team has assembled once this year and looks good, going a perfect 10-0 at the Las Vegas Invitational.

Kat Scheerer is a senior center from Eckerd College in Florida. She’s one of the team’s more athletic players, coupling the ability to break tackles with an insatiable work rate on defense. Prop Tylea McCarthy-Walker represents the State University of New York – Oswego. She moves well for a big player, especially when chasing in support. Dais Manoa comes from MiraCosta Community College. She will pair with McCarthy-Walker in the scrum, using her powerful frame creatively around the pitch.

ARMY

  • Head coach: Bill LeClerc
  • 7s coach: Steve Lewis
  • Assistant coach: Lara Vivolo
  • Banners: 2011 Champion

The Black Knights won the inaugural Women’s CRC in 2011, the same year they claimed the 15s national championship. But Army hasn’t been back to the tournament since. Their infusion adds a dark horse contender, as the cadets are well coached and have loads of reps under them this spring. They’ve won two tournaments so far, Brown 7s and Sacred Heart 7s, and they finished third at Crimson 7s and Tropical 7s. They’ve lost to Lindenwood and Life in both meetings this season, but competitively so. Their toughest test in pool play is likely to be NSCRO, semifinalists from last season.

Three juniors leady the way for Army. Sammy Sullivan is an All-American wing with pace to burn on the outside. She paced the Black Knights with six tries on the second day of Tropical 7s. Sophomore Kailen Young added two in the final of that tournament, proving she came up with plays down the stretch. Halfback Bayleigh Gable is a U20 halfback who shepherds her charges around the pitch. Gio Gerguson-Lewis is a U20 hooker who provides the graft up front.

NORTHEASTERN

  • Head coach: Keith Cattanach

The Huskies are returning to the CRC for the second time in three years. Northeastern played in 2017 but not last season.They’ve had some newfound success on the pitch this year, qualifying for USA Rugby’s 15s playoffs and 7s nationals. They’ve run up against the Black Knights in tournament play this spring, but come up short. Wins over NSCRO and Kutztown are attainable.

Senior Hannah Bogich is one of the team’s stars. The Long Beach, Calif. native plays in the front row in 7s and back row in 15s. Senior wing Isabel Haber is another standout who relishes contact, like freshman phenom Maya Raghavan. Haber earned headlines for, 90 minutes after scaling down the side of her apartment building that was engulfed in flames, lacing it up against Boston University. Katrina Beske is the team’s captain. She has a long history with the game, picking up while living abroad in Hong Kong before moving back to the States to find no high school clubs for her to join. She lettered in fencing and pole vault in high school before returning to rugby at Northeastern.

KUTZTOWN

  • Head Coach: Alex Artus
  • Assistant Coach: Emily Myers

Making the trek once more down I-476 are the Golden Bears of Kutztown. They’re coming off a successful campaign in 2018, having gone 3-3 to win the equivalent of the Shield Trophy in the old Hong Kong format. The Bears fell to Penn State, Navy and Delaware, but topped Clemson, Drexel and East Stroudsburg. This spring, the Bears have posted a similar record, going 5-5-1 over three tournaments. They split four games at the first leg of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference series, beating Rowan and Bloomsburg’s second side before losing to Temple and Bloomsburg’s top team. KU improved in the next MARC event, besting LaSalle and East Stroudsburg, as well as exacting revenge over Temple. Their lone loss was to Bloomsburg, and they drew with Rowan. They logged a win over Columbia in the next competition, losing to Delaware and West Chester.

The Bears are led by Tamlyn Cowan, the junior from Jefferson Township. Having played on several select sides in high school, she’s one of the most experienced players in the side. Senior Karleigh Davila, like Cowan, has experience playing for Morris, which translates well to the collegiate game. Senior Nicolle Dudkewic and sophomore Alexandra Quigg are standouts for the Bears, too.

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