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Poughkeepsie, NY – The Vassar women's team edged Stony Brook 22-17 to take the Tri-State Conference championship Saturday, setting the Brewers up for a coveted home game in the Round of 32 in the new American Collegiate Rugby Association (ACRA) playoffs.
Anne Fritzson, Cierra Thomas, Dallas Robinson and Natalie Ward all scored tries for Vassar in a back-and-forth game that saw Stony Brook score in a quick and devastating way early on.
Vassar defeated Rutgers 17-0 and Marist 22-5 the previous weekend to get to the final, but Stony Brook came into the game on a great roll, having shut out Binghamton 43-0 and Albany - a team that had beaten Vassar - 29-12. Stony Brook was undefeated, while Vassar had suffered two league defeats, including a sobering early-season pasting at the hands of Marist.
However, things were different in November. Even behind 7-0 Vassar seemed a more confident and more intense team, and the Brewers crawled back to within two. Vassar ramped up their defense, led by Ward and Thomas, with fullback Laila Blumenthal-Rothchild hauling down the Stony Brook runners when they broke through.
Vassar scored through a controlled, patient attack, working the phases and using No. 8 Robinson to thunder upfield. That approach also served to keep the ball out of Stony Brook's dangerous backs.
Stony Brook could defend, too, however, and held up Vassar in-goal three times. Still, Vassar led 15-7 at halftime on the backs of three unconverted tries.
Vassar looked in control when Ward capped off a snappy movement and freshman Mary Margaret McElduff slotted the conversion to make it 22-7 Vassar. But Stony Brook stormed back, scoring a try to make it 22-12, and then another as time was frittering away. Within a try, Stony Brook couldn't get through one more time, and Vassar held on.
"I was very pleased for the squad," said Head Coach Tony Brown. "Earlier in the fall we had injuries, and for the first time in 19 years, the squad consisted of more rookies than experienced players. So the players have really grown. Stony Brook have some quick threequarters including a couple of former soccer players - twins - who can kick well. They gave us headaches."
With her try Saturday, Thomas increased her season total to eight, but Vassar's top scorer, scrumhalf Margaret Kwateng (15 tries), did not make the scoresheet.
Looking ahead to the ACRA playoffs, Stony Brook also makes the Round of 32, and takes on a tough Hamilton side in Upstate New York. Vassar, meanwhile, will host Colgate.
Marist, undefeated in regular season play and disappointed not to make the final, took 3rd in the Tri-State and will travel to play New England champs Stonehill. The winner of that game takes on one of two Mid-Atlantic finalists (Shippensburg or Kutztown). Vassar, should they beat Colgate, will face the winner of SUNY Geneseo and RPI; while Stony Brook, should they beat Hamilton, will look to face Bowdoin or Holy Cross.
For the full DII ACRA brackets, click here.