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December 11th, 2013

Vassar Dominates Over Kutztown, 24-15



Margaret Kwateng was selected as the team’s MVP and she along with Dallas Robinson and Meg Slattery were named to be part of the All-Tournament team.
LAKELAND, FL - It is really very hard on the body and mind to have to play two games of rugby in a single weekend. It is even harder to have to play a 3rd/4th place playoff game the day after your season’s dream has been shattered. Yesterday, Vassar had fallen to Notre Dame College, a varsity program with scholarship athletes in a tough contest, battling from behind to get to 19-24 and then have their comeback stymied. The Brewers were not pleased with their own performance and that was undoubtedly a motivating force. So the aches and pains had to be put aside and they took the field against the women of Kutztown University. What followed was an 80-minute tribute to the character and determination of both teams.

Rarely has a Vassar team defended so stoutly. Kutztown have a direct and effective pick and go game, using their big and strong forwards to work their way up the field. There is no place to hide and tackles right next to the ruck have to be made. Often, one on one, the attacker is able to bulldoze their way over the gain line and another ruck is formed, then the process is repeated. Slow and steady wins the race seemed to be the Kutztown plan. Every Vassar forward as well as the inside backs had to put their body and soul into making tackles.

The Brewers got off to another good start when Margaret Kwateng scurried through to score after the Vassar forwards had won some phases. Kwateng was a force and most importantly it was her consistent tackling of those Kutztown forwards that sent the clear and emphatic message  “Thou shalt not pass!” Kwateng picked up forwards and drove them back from whence they came. Another Vassar number 9, Keri Peacock, is hopefully reading this and smiling, for she too was a clinician in this skill. Mary Margaret McElduff kicked the conversion and it was a 7-0 lead.

Vassar kept the pressure on and used the ball well from the kick-off to once again earn good field position and that woman Kwateng slipped through the defense to make it 12-0. The hot Florida sun was beating down but the Vassar players could sense that this game was there for the taking. Kutztown had been beaten the previous day by Winona State and their mountain was now looking that much more difficult to climb. But credit the Pennsylvania school players for they kept pounding away and when they had the ball they advanced. It was certainly not quick as they moved forward but it was difficult to stop. They eventually wore down the Vassar defense and scored to make it 12-5. Vassar’s efforts for the remainder of that first half unfortunately were not rewarded, as on no less than 3 occasions the referee was not able to see tries scored! Margaret Kwateng and Rachel Thompson looked to have scored perfectly good tries only for 5-meter scrums to be awarded. The half finished 12-5.

Earlier mention was made of character and determination. Dallas Robinson was hurting having injured her knee on Saturday. In fact, she has played the entire Fall with back pain and delayed surgery on her feet so she could play rugby. She struggled through the warm-up and took the field hoping to be able to contribute. Her ball carrying and tackling were exemplary and it was an inspiration to all of the team. So it should come as no surprise that Meg Slattery and Hannah Fink kept slamming and jamming as did Taylor Nunley and Emma Elbaum in the second row. The Vassar front row will not see a bigger opposition front three for the rest of their collegiate careers and Darienne Jones, Nathalie Freeman, and Kathleen Gould fought tooth and nail in the scrums.

Behind the forwards Kwateng was pulling the strings on attack and organizing the defense. Flyhalf Shira Idris was back in the team after a long spell out through injury and she distributed quickly and worked hard. The center pairing of Natalie Ward and Cierra Thomas was rock solid and they made line breaks and kept tackling their counter-parts for the full 80 minutes. The back three was also outstanding with Laila Bluenthal-Rothchild at fullback always on hand to stop attackers. Mary Margaret McElduff slotted 2 conversions and had a couple of important tackles to go along with a scintillating run in the second half deep into the Kutztown 22. On the right wing was “Miss Utility” Rachel Thompson – she is a forward at heart and has played lock, Number 8, flanker, and prop, but for this post-season she has played 12, and she throws in at the lineout just for good measure! She made her tackles and had had a lovely run from a lineout.

So Vassar had won the first half 12-5 and they quickly got on the score sheet in the second period as Kwateng scored yet again and it was 19-5. Then defense quickly turned to attack and Vassar led 24-5 as Kwateng increased her season’s tally of tries to 36. Yes, 7 tries over this weekend alone and 36 in 13 games this Fall.

Kutztown was not going to go down without a fight and they showed what big hearts they have got for as a team they came roaring back. They pounded the ball around the rucks and kept marching forward. Vassar kept stepping in front of the runners and it was a dogged rearguard action worthy of the accolades of Rourke’s Drift in the late 1800s. Kutztown scored with about 10 minutes left and it was 24-10. Buoyed by this try and as Vassar seemed to be tiring they came barging back yet again. Every Vassar tackle bought time and every Vassar tackle meant they were closer to victory. The referee told the player the next time the ball was dead the final whistle would be blown. A knock-on should have heralded the end of the game but one more scrum was set. Kutztown managed to bash over and it finished 24-15. Both teams were exhausted but the smiles were on Brewer faces as they had earned a 3rd place finish and an overall season record of 11-3-0.


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