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The Glendale Raptors repeated as Women’s Premier League champions Sunday with a 26-17 defeat of the Berkeley All Blues at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Raptor blindside flanker Jojo Kitlinski was named the match’s MVP thanks to her crunching hits and insatiable work rate.
Glendale advanced to Sunday's finale with a 44-20 defeat of New York Friday. Berkeley had a much closer semifinal encounter, 29-23 over the Minnesota Amazons, which may have factored in the final.
Berkeley got on the board first in the fifth minute, with Lisa Dombroski dotting down in the corner after a dizzying series of phases. It all started with a lineout in the All Blues’ end of the field, from which the Californians marched dozens of yards with an effective maul. Then Amelia Villines made a break before being cut down by Kitlinksi. Berkeley kept on the front foot, leading to Dombroski’s try.
The Raptors had the chance to cut the difference to two a few minutes later. A pair of All Blues penalties gave Hannah Stolba a very makeable shot at goal, but the kick sailed wide right, leaving Berkeley up 5-0.
Glendale kept knocking on the door for the next 10 minutes, looking primed to cross the whitewash on multiple occasions, but they repeatedly fell short. Three times in the first 20 minutes Raptors were tackled into touch. Eventually, the pressure resulted in another kickable penalty, but Stolba missed that one wide left.
Berkeley couldn’t clear the ball from its own end, though, and the penalties kept coming. Stolba’s third shot at goal was true, putting the Raptors on the board, down 5-3 after 25 minutes.
The flyhalf put them in front about a minute later, earning a penalty try. Stolba sliced through a gap in the Berkeley midfield and darted forward. With one defender to beat, the Eagle chipped over the All Blues fullback, who tackled her steps later, resulting in a penalty try, which Stolba converted to put Glendale up 10-5.
Christen Suda was the first Raptor to actually get into pay dirt 10 minutes later, finishing off a series of quick hands wide for Glendale’s second try. Sarah Chobot, Jeanna Beard and Rachel Ryan put Glendale on the front foot with some powerful carries, and Suda reaped the rewards. Stolba’s conversion attempt was errant, and the Raptors led 15-5 going into the break.
Berkeley stopped the run with an electrifying try by Ardia Kelker five minutes into the second half. The All Blues punted from their own end, regathered it and found the speedy wing with some space. She did the rest. The conversion was missed, leaving Glendale up 15-10.
The home team went back on the offensive, but despite several driving mauls and attacking opportunities, the Raptors couldn’t break the Berkeley defense. However, the pressure did lead to a kickable penalty, which Stolba stroked over to regain a two-score advantage. A handful of minutes later she did it again, putting the Raptors up 21-10.
Glendale scored a crucial try shortly after the restart, as Kandis Ruiz split the Berkeley midfield and outraced the remaining All Blues to the line. Stolba’s conversion was missed, making it 26-10. She had to set it on the tee twice, as her Berkeley counterpart, a clearly frustrated Ruth Bryson, charged while Stolba was still setting up and kicked the ball the other direction.
Berkeley made it interesting with a try in the 77th minute after a flurry of Glendale penalties, and nearly again in the 80th minute, but it was too little too late.