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Western Washington University defeated defending national women's DII champs Washington State to take the Pacific Coast women's DII college title Sunday.
WWU already had the #1 seed coming from the Pacific Northwest, as they had beaten WSU by a point in league play. They were further helped when Utah State failed to make the trip to the championships, and Western was awarded a bye through semis.
Washington State, on the other hand, battled it out a 27-15 win against Santa Clara, a tiny, clean and focused Nor Cal team.
It set up another WWU v WSU showdown, and Western came out on top 30-21.
"This was one of the most fun games to watch," said Mika Underwood, who has been a player for WWU but now helps Kerry Griffin coach the team since being sidelined by a knee injury. "Unlike the first time we played WSU where we were fairly even and the scrums wouldn't move, our forwards dominated them. WSU focused on poaching the ball in contact [instead of rucking] which threw us for a loop. But once we forced them to ruck and turned over more ball, our fitter and faster forwards wore them out."
But WSU president Amber Sadoski begged to differ. "Western played a great game, and my entire team respects them as a powerhouse," the scrumhalf said, "but they did not work us over. They scored a try in the last 30 seconds of the game - an unlucky break through the defense - but the game was very even."
WWU was led by Hilary Nichols, with two tries, and also got tries from Aimee Fischer, Erin Stehr, Keisha Rumberger, with April Fogel kicking the rest of the points. WSU leaned on flanker Noehly Tzintzun, who committed to taking down WSU's big forwards, and try-scoring sisters Megan and Alexis Bonny.
WSU did well to spin the ball wide and scored most of their tries that way, but the Western defense held.
"It really came down to controling the point of contact and who wanted it more," said WWU's Jordan Barber. "The rivalry that has built up between the two teams over the last couple years was very obvious to everyone on and off the field, which increased the intensity of the game. We came into the game knowing that it would be our defense that would win over WSU, but also that this is a game of points, not just tries. It seemed to us that in the past the games we had against them were very close in points. We didn't want to get caught up with white line fever."
"We're disappointed with the loss," Sadoski said, "but it would've been different if both teams came into the game on the same level. Playing Santa Clara took alot out of us, especially since we traveled with only 18 girls and had to use all of our blood subs, some of whom made their rugby debut against Washington."
The experience has left Washington State somewhat bitter - but not just because of Utah State's failure to travel. According to Sadoski, the Pacific Coast neglected to schedule a referee for the championship, and the event took place on a polo field riddled with divots. But the team isn't letting those distractions derail her team.
"We're eager to defend our title; it's in everyone's sites," Sadoski said.
Western Washington will see the Southern California team (either Claremont or CSU Fullerton) in the first round, while Washington State will play South #2 seed UNC Charlotte.