PALO ALTO, Calif. – - For the third consecutive time the Penn State women’s rugby team is the National Champion. To secure the ninth title in team history, the Nittany Lions routed host Stanford, 38-0.
The victory not only signified the first time that a team won three consecutive titles, but also the only time that a National Champion did not concede a point in the final two rounds of the playoffs.
Penn State defeated West Chester University, 58-0, the day prior.
“One of the special attitudes of this team is their commitment to excellence,” said head coach Pete Steinberg. “After the West Chester game the players knew we did not play our best and even though we had won the game and were in the National Championship game the feeling was one of disappointment.”
Disappointment boosted the squad for the final match, which resulted in prop Hope Rogers being named tournament MVP.
“We were upset cause we knew we could play better [against West Chester] and that we would need to play better against Stanford in order to win,” said Rogers following the finals performance. “It was really exciting to see that we were able to play better today.”
In total, Penn State finished the USA Rugby playoffs by outscoring its opponents 293-15.
To reach the semifinal round, the Nittany Lions out-distanced East Carolina 75-10, followed by a decisive victory over the United States Military Academy – West Point, 122-5.
“At the beginning of the season we recognized that it would be a really hard challenge for us to win again and I’m really proud of the players for stepping up and getting to this point,” said Steinberg. “The players that weren’t able to travel are the reason why we are here.”
To secure the championship, the Nittany Lions saw two tries dotted down by both Rogers and eight Annie Lucas as well as from flanker Bitsy Cairns and fullback Meya Bizer. Lauren Shissler connected on four of six conversion kicks to round out the scoring on the day.
A strong defensive performance was also noted on the day from Bizer. The birthday girl had several game-changing hits in addition to making several try-saving tackles.
The Nittany Lions were paced by three tries from Corey Meanix in the semifinal match. Gabriella Cantorna added two of her own in addition to slotting two conversions in the victory over the Golden Rams. Kellie Vetter, Elena Cantorna, Danielle Ciocco, Gretchen Stockhausen and Beth Rose also added tries to the board. Bizer was able to connect on one of the tries to make the final score, 58-0.
“We have a great group of players on this team that made a commitment to each other to raise our game and go for history,” said Penn State Captain Kelsey Harris. “We always feel our history at Penn State and our performances are built on those that came before us, but it is special to be the first team to be able to win 3 in a row.”
Steinberg also noted the team’s efforts from the history-making win.
“This team is the most fit and physical team I have coached,” Steinberg said. “We have remarkable depth with over 60 players on our squad and a number of quality players who did not make the trip out here. The challenge is now how can we be better next year.”
To round out the season, the Nittany Lions will switch gears to 7s and the CRC 7s Championships, May 30 through June 1. The tournament, held in Chester (Pa.) at PPL Park, will be aired on NBC.
Tickets to the event can be purchased through http://www.usasevenscrc.com/tickets/pennstate