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In a hard hitting, back and forth affair, Davenport outlasted Winona State to win the women’s DII National Championship. The Panthers struggled to get their game plan going, but key substitutions provided the jolt they needed to win 27-22.

“Winona State played a fantastic game. They never let us get into our flow of play. We try to get into our system and are very patient about that….Usually we are able to get to it at some point but they were much stronger in the rucks and didn’t allow us to get clean ball,” said Davenport coach Greg Teliczan.

The game was incredibly tightly contested with neither team taking a two score advantage at any point during the game. Winona State opened the scoring through the powerful prop Rachel Hannigan but Davenport answered with a try from Hunter Moreland. With the conversion, the Panthers led 7-5.

Melissa Francis dotted down to extend the lead to 12-5 for Davenport. The teams jockeyed for position for the rest of the first half, but neither team was able to muster any more points.

Winona struck back to start the second half through Megan Wolff, but Davenport regained the lead with a Julia Mayer try. The Black Kats refused to go away, however, scoring again and tying the game at 17 apiece.

Danielle Ordway, who scored five tries on Saturday, got another one at key point in the match. In the 69th minute, Ordway went nearly the length of the field and with the conversion the Panthers led 24-17. Once again, however, Winona battled back. Lachen Esters went over but the conversion was missed leaving it 24-22 with less than ten minutes to play.

Davenport got some breathing room thanks to a penalty but Winona piled on the pressure in the waning moments. The Black Kats continued to pick and drive their way into the Davenport 22. A try in the middle of the field would have set up an easy conversion for the win, but Davenport had just enough left in the tank. A number of reserves came off the bench for key minutes. The Panthers earned a penalty deep in their own territory and kicked to touch ending the match.

“In a game like that, it came down to the players that we pulled off the bench. We had some girls that were exhausted. It was a hard hitting, physical game and I think that last 30 minutes really added a spark and ignited us enough to withstand a lot of their pressure,” Teliczan concluded.

For Davenport, it has been a year of hard work and a dream that has come to fruition. Teliczan hopes the notoriety will help with recruiting and show the university the positive return on investment from supporting the program.

“It has been the goal from day one….To them (the girls) it is everything. It is everything they dreamed of and wanted,” exclaimed Teliczan. “Hopefully this sends a message out there to prospective girls that want to attend the college and continue their rugby after high school that they do have some place else to play. For our own university, to see what we have been accomplishing and continue to get the huge support that they have been giving us is huge. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are at now.”