After coming face-to-face with adversity for the first time all season in their final regular season match two weeks ago, the top-seeded Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby team faced a similar theme in the first round of the Gold Coast Conference Intercollegiate Rugby (GCCIR) Division I Playoffs. The Lopes took on their in-state rivals, 4th-seeded Arizona State University in Saturday’s first round, and won, 46-14, to advance to the championship match on Sunday at GCU Stadium on the GCU campus. Lopes’ centers Daeanera Tuaua and Julian White led the team in scoring with two tries each.
Both teams displayed their offensive prowess in the first half by exchanging tries back and forth. It was Grand Canyon who walked to halftime with a 21-14 lead after making a defensive stand against ASU in the final minutes. Tuaua broke away on an impressive try to give her team the go-ahead score.
What was the Halftime Message to the Team?
“Work harder,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Alison Price. “ASU came out really strong, and were all there for each other. We had to do the same thing, and make the necessary adjustments on defense.”
Grand Canyon set the tone early in the second half, with Lopes’ junior Sara Lawson scoring in the first three minutes to give her team a 26-14 lead. The match quickly became a defensive battle with both teams bending but refusing to break. It wasn’t until Lopes’ Wing Kayla Faurot dashed for 40 yards and scored at the midway point of the half that GCU’s offense rekindled.
The adjustments made proved fruitful for GCU as they held ASU scoreless the entire second half. The Lopes’ victory improves their overall record on to 7-0, and puts them one step closer to nationals.
“Making nationals is definitely something in the back of our heads,” said Price. “But we try to focus on what’s happening now. Right now, we’ll focus on recovering, taking care of our bodies, and getting ready for tomorrow.”
UC-Santa Barbara advances with win over Cal-State Northridge
It was an even higher scoring affair in the afternoon match between 3rd-seeded California State University-Northridge and 2nd-seeded University of California Santa Barbara. UCSB dominated the first 60 minutes of play, taking a 50-7 lead at halftime, and actually extended the margin to 60 points before a late CSUN rally made the final score a respectable 67-52 Gauchos’ victory.
With day one of the tournament in the books, Sunday’s final rounds commence at 10:30 am with Northridge matching up with ASU in the consolation match. The GCCIR Championship Match will round out the tournament at 1:30 PM with the rematch between #1 Grand Canyon and #2 UC Santa Barbara.
The championship matchup is the second time in 15 days that the Lopes and Gauchos will clash after GCU grinded out a 19-12 victory in Santa Barbara on March 10. It was the lowest points scored by the Lopes all season and their closest margin of victory.
The winner of the match will not only be crowned champion of the weekend but also earns the right to advance to the Division I Women’s Rugby Spring Nationals in April. Kick-off is at 1:30 pm at the GCU Stadium and admission to the game is FREE.
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