Preview: Women’s rugby takes on West Chester

Tanner Harding and Nick Colon

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Photo: Rebecca Castagna

Photo: Rebecca Castagna

In the first ever quarterfinal matchup of the newly founded National Collegiate Varsity Women’s Rugby Association (NCVWRA) tournament, the Quinnipiac Bobcats (8-2, 6-1 NCVWRA) play host to the West Chester Golden Rams (5-5, 0-2 NCVWRA) on the QU Rugby Field this Saturday.

“The team is ecstatic that this is an opportunity they’re going to be able to take advantage of, so they’re grateful to be playing in front of their home crowd,” Quinnipiac head coach Becky Carlson said. “We’re the last [Quinnipiac] fall team standing legitimately, so there tends to be that expectation to play the best rugby you can possibly play.

Quinnipiac is coming into the weekend on a three game winning streak, after defeating American International College, Army and West Chester, while West Chester has composed a 4-1 tally in its last five outings. The Bobcats’ most recent defeat came against the west coast powerhouse, Central Washington University, in a 33-12 loss on Oct. 18 that halted a Bobcats four-game winning streak. The Golden Rams sit at 5-5 overall despite starting the season 1-4. The team was able to make amends and win four straight to finish the season at .500.

“West Chester isn’t any different than any other team that we play, because we all know it only takes about seven seconds to score a rugby try wherever you are on the field, so we don’t take that for granted,” Carlson said.

Quinnipiac is undefeated in its last four matchups against West Chester, after conceding the first-ever meeting between the two programs back in 2011. In what was both teams’ regular season finale, the Bobcats battered West Chester by a score of 100-10, last Saturday, in West Chester, PA.

Leading the charge was sophomore transfer, Ilona Maher, who recorded six assists to tie a Quinnipiac single-game milestone held by former Bobcat Elena Orlando. Her five tries tied a career high set against AIC earlier in the season. Also atop the team leaders in tries is freshman playmaker Emily Roskopf. A strong yet agile player, Roskopf find the holes on a consistent basis, so look to see her spring the attack if she can get her touches. Maher and Roskopf have combined for a total of 35 tries, 21 and 14 respectively. The Bobcats have had success this year involving numerous players in the attack, but their defeats have come from a lack of creativity from individual players.

“I think in rugby in itself, if one person decides they don’t want to play that day, you have to play 14-on-15 and it’s exponentially more difficult than playing 15-on-15,” Carlson said. “We just go for the ‘stay together’ and the things we’ve been practicing.”

If the Bobcats play inspired rugby, look for another deep run during this postseason, and a swift handling of the early competition.

“We would be surely disappointed not to be in the finals this year, but just based off history we cant say that’s automatically going to happen,” Carlson said. “One of the things I said to the team today is that you absolutely deserve to be in the finals but that doesn’t mean you will be.”