Merlins Elite Women pull out final season victory
GLENDALE – With the Women’s Premier League season nearing its end, it’s the time of the year to dig deep, and in their final regular season match the Glendale Merlins did just that, earning a 31-27 comeback win in their regular season finale at Oregon Sports Union (ORSU).
Photo by Justin Purdy
“This was our last regular season match of the fall season, and yet again, it was fierce battle with a close finish,” explained Merlins forward Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky. “We used this final test to prepare for the big show next week and try out new combinations.”
It was a back and forth affair in muddy conditions as the hosts took an early 5-0 lead over Glendale with the first try of the match. The Merlins eventually answered with tries from Andrea Prusinski and Amandine Chatelier to take a 12-5 lead. ORSU responded with back-to-back tries of their own however, to retake the lead, holding a 15-12 advantage entering halftime.
“ORSU came out with physical intensity, as we knew they would,” Shalosky continued. “We started out a bit flat on defense and had issues with precision and discipline, particularly in the breakdown – that’s something we know we’ll have to tighten up for next week. We accumulated quite a few costly penalties and two yellow cards through the game.”
ORSU continued their momentum into the second half, scoring the opening try to extend their lead to 20-12. After Chatelier earned a yellow card, ORSU again took advantage, pushing their lead to 27-12 with another try.
“It was another opportunity to practice under pressure and ORSU certainly exerted lots of it,” said Merlins fly/scrum-half Jenny Lui. “It was a physical match and they challenged us with their strong runners. With 20 minutes left, we were down by three tries and the team did well to respond by staying together and doing what needed to be done to close it out in the end.”
After returning to full strength, Glendale finally responded with back-to-back tries of their own, cutting the ORSU lead to 27-24 with less than 10 minutes remaining. The Merlins would then be given a final possession with the clock running out. Glendale delivered, scoring their final try on that final possession to win the match by a score of 31-27.
“The match was exciting, to say the least,” said Merlins center Jeanna Beard. “Coming back from a 12-27 deficit to a 31-27 victory in the last quarter of the match was truly a test of grit and fortitude.”
In the win, Chatelier earned Player of the Match honors for her offensive contributions combined with a hard-hitting defensive effort.
“She ran hard with the ball and put her teammates into space,” Lui said of the French forward.
Heading into next weekend’s Nationals, the Merlins hold the best record in the WPL Blue Conference with 35 points in the regular season table. They’ll be matched up against Red Conference opponent Beantown out of Boston, a team which earned 28 points in their conference this season with a 6-2 record in the regular season.
Said Shalosky, “Historically, [Beantown] is a hard-hitting team with great strength in their forwards, so we’ll need to bring physicality from the opening minute. We’ll look to continue to build on the lessons from this weekend and season so far.”
Back home at Infinity Park, the Division I Women beat Austin Valkyries 31-26 and the U20 Men ran past the University of New Mexico 67-3.