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Penn State won its second-straight Women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship Sunday, beating James Madison 29-12 in the final at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Penn State never trailed in the contest, finishing the tournament undefeated.
Other than the first game against Navy, won 19-5, and the first half of the final, the Nittany Lions weren’t pushed to the brink. But the tournament was by no means a cruise.
“It was a mentally difficult task playing the two military teams for the first two pool play games to get to this. I think we played really well in both of those games. I think we’ve built every game,” said captain Kate Flanagan.
“The final was our best game, not even skill wise, but work rate. People wanted it the most now that we were finally here. It was a tough pool to go through, but I think it came out for the best.”
In the final, Cate Benson and Flanagan got the Nittany Lions on the board midway through the first half, scoring back-to-back tries in quick succession. James Madison’s Francesca Genoese then ran in after PSU took a quick restart following Flanagan’s try, pulling the Dukes to within three at 10-7. However, Penn State poured in three more tries to JMU’s one the rest of the way.
Making Penn State’s accomplishment that much more impressive was the lack of regular starters. The Nittany Lions were without many of their bigger names, but young team pulled together.
“It was awesome. Coming into this we knew our focus wasn’t the people, it was what unit we could make that was going to be best in every position,” said Flanagan, one of the few veterans.
“It was unfortunate we couldn’t have all our players, but it’s amazing how many freshmen we had come out and not only score tries but step up huge in that game. So it give me hope for the future of our team.”
Coupled with a Cup Quarterfinal appearance for the men’s team, the women winning hardware made it a positive weekend for Penn State as a whole.
“It was a really good experience. We were doing everything together to prepare for this,” said Flanagan. “We were lifting in the weight room together at the same time. We had trainings one after another. It was nice to build the support we don’t have in 15s with them because our seasons are so drastically different.”