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West in Blue. Phillipa Snyman photos

The West surmounted a 15-0 halftime deficit to down the Midwest 24-15 Thursday at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.

The Midwest jumped out to an early lead with a Brittany Houston (UW-Milwaukee) penalty in the 12th minute, and added tries from Northern Iowa inside center Karlee West and Michigan fullback Mary McCarthy in the final five minutes of the half. Minnesota’s Melissa Krug converted the first one, making it 15-0 to the Midwest.

“The Midwest is a tough team, strong team, aggressive team and they came out and they had fire in their eyes,” said West coach Mollie McCarthy, “and I think we went out there a little bit nervous, over thinking a lot of things and not just trusting themselves to play rugby and play their game.”

McCarthy made some tactical subs at halftime and throughout the second half, sparking the comeback.

“It was a complete turnaround in mentality. Everyone started getting motivated and excited. It was a complete team effort,” said McCarthy. “As a coach, seeing that turnaround, and seeing them play united and come together and fight so hard to the end, it was really exciting, and I was just so proud of the girls.”

The West first got on the board with a try from Texas scrumhalf Wendy Sun in the 55th minute. Colorado’s Katherine Sutton, who subbed on for Sun after her try, dotted down minutes later to pull the West within three, after a Desire Smoot conversion, at 15-12.

Shortly thereafter, South Dakota State’s Jacie Vonada, another second half sub, scored to put the West in front. Smoot converted, making it 19-15 late in the second half.

“They brought the fresh legs. They really helped bring the team up,” said McCarthy of Vonada, Sutton and reserve lock Kristen Shalosky.

“They’d been watching the first half and they knew what they needed to do and what their role was, and it was very  much what we were hoping and expecting out of them, and it was that little last piece of the puzzle that really helped put it all together.”

No. 8 Julia Fortkort became the second Longhorn to score a try for the West Saturday, extending the lead to 14-15 in the 71st minute.

Up next for the West is the U20s Saturday inside the stadium at Infinity Park.