Wheaton Women's Rugby finishes third in the nation
Posted on December 3, 2012
As the bus departed from the Clark Center en route to Cherry Hill, New Jersey on Friday night, the Wheaton Women’s Rugby team had their sight set on bringing back a national championship trophy to Norton . As one of the four remaining teams left in the National Small College Rugby Organization tournament, the team was only two games away from achieving this goal. Facing some of the toughest competition of the season, Wheaton was in for a challenge during the weekend
Standing in their way in the semi-final round was Wayne State (Neb.), who had won the RFU Great Plains Conference. From the opening kick, the game was a back and forth battle with several score changes and physical play. Entering half time with a 14-10 lead, Wheaton used strong technique and fundamentals to gain the advantage over the larger, stronger Wayne State squad. The second half was similar to the first, with the teams battling for field positioning and alternating scores. After a Wheaton penalty, Wayne State took a 23-21 lead with only a few minutes remaining. With their backs against a wall, Wheaton showed pride and determination and was able to steal the ball from Wayne State and began marching the ball down the field. As the seconds ticked off the clock, Wheaton drove the ball to within inches of the try zone. With one last effort, Wheaton was stymied at the goal-line as the referee blew her whistle to indicate the end of the game, marking the end of Wheaton’s national championship hopes.
Entering the consolation game after their heart-breaking loss to Wayne State, Wheaton proved to the spectators and league that they should truly be considered the best team in the country. Facing offer against Albrite College, the “Hot-steppers” wasted little time and scored their first try within the opening minutes of the match. Wheaton never relinquished the lead in the match after this try. Entering the second half with a 20-7 advantage, Wheaton continued to dominate the Lions of Albrite throughout the final 40 minutes of the season. When the final whistle was sounded, Wheaton walked off the field with a 45-7 victory and the right to claim their third place medal at the award ceremony.
Wheaton received great recognition for their talents and hard work during the tournament awards ceremony. Along with the team receiving the bronze medal for their hard fought season, several players from the team were individually recognized for their contributions during the weekend. Leah Smith was awarded the “Heart and Soul” award for all of her hard work on and off the field for her team. Smith, along with teammates Robin Bradley, Hannah Reier, Danielle Fournier, and Maura Dahill were named to the “All-NSCRO Championship XV” team for their excellent play during the weekend.
Despite not winning the championship, Wheaton held their heads high at the end of the weekend knowing they were among the best women’s rugby players in the country. With the team and individual awards in hand and the experiences of being part of such an elite event, the Wheaton Women’s Rugby team left Cherry Hill as winners, regardless of the tournament outcome.