By: K.J. Wylie/GCU Staff
In a rematch of last year’s conference semifinals, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby team overpowered their rivals, Arizona State University, 51-12, Saturday afternoon in their home opener at GCU Stadium. It was the largest margin of victory in the program’s history over the Sun Devils, and it was their fourth straight win over ASU dating back to last season. Eight different Lopes’ players scored at least one try, and three GCU players – Taylor O’Connell, Nastasha Opoku and Jasmine Fifer – found the try zone twice each.
With plenty of energy and offensive prowess, Grand Canyon came out the gates quickly, putting up 19 points in the first 15 minutes of the match. ASU’s defense stiffened for the rest of the half, and the match quickly became a defensive battle where both teams successfully stopped each other in goal line situations. On one ASU possession, Opoku and fellow Lopes’ back Taylor Marasco made an incredible effort of 5 tackles together in succession.
ASU broke through in the final seconds of the first half to close the Lopes’ lead to 19-7 at halftime.
Grand Canyon found the same early success in the second half, scoring another three tries in the first 20 minutes to put the game out of reach. Lopes’ back Taylor O’Connell began the rally by ripping through the Sun Devil defense for a 40-yard try, her second of the day. Once again, the Sun Devils were unable to find the try zone until late in the game after the outcome had been well-decided.
“We have been through way too much to not come out on top,” said Lopes’ Forward Kaley Lightfoot. “ASU fought very hard up until the last minute, and they have a program that’s been around forever, but with us, we knew to take it to them – no matter how much we were winning by.”
The rivalry intensified late in the match as the two teams became a bit chippy toward each other – something the Lopes’ team leaders found difficult to tolerate from their teammates.
“We just rip each other by our jerseys and say, ‘Hey! Stay focused,’” said Lightfoot. “We tell ourselves that if you have enough time to yell at the other team, you have enough time to run across the field.”
Grand Canyon will get a two week break before returning to action against University of California, Santa Barbara in another home outing. Kickoff is at 11am on Saturday, February 16 on the GCU campus.