Merlins Elite Women stay perfect on WPL season
GLENDALE – The Glendale Merlins Elite Women’s Rugby Team continues to impress in their inaugural campaign, earning a win Saturday with their 21-15 road win over the San Diego Surfers in their third Women’s Premier League (WPL) match of the season.
Photo by Drew Anneberg
The game marked a rematch of last season’s WPL final, when Glendale Merlins Elite Women (then playing as the Raptors) suffered a heart breaking 26-16 defeat to the Surfers. This time around, Glendale – now reborn as the Merlins – hoped for a shot at redemption.
“The Surfers are always dangerous,” said Merlins forward Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky. “Every year they bring a creative style with a lot of offloading from their backline with the influence from 7s. Of course, they’re the reigning National Champs and they’re the ones we lost to in the final. We definitely had a chip on our shoulder coming into this game.”
The Merlins Elite Women came out strong, putting down the game’s first try and taking a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes. But the hosts responded with back-to-back tries of their own to take a 12-7 lead. Glendale responded with another try from fly-half Hannah Stolba before the half and the Merlins regained an edge, leading 14-12 at halftime.
For Glendale, the goal was to win its physical battles while trying to shut down a potent Surfers attack. In the second half, they not only accomplished that, but continued to put down tries, scoring again to open the second half and extend their lead to 21-12 on a try from Andrea Prusinski.
“We also intended to read what was in front on us and adjust to it,” explained Shalosky. “In terms of reading what the opposition what was giving to us, I think we did that better as a group.”
Rugby Athletic Player of the Match: Carmen Farmer
Backrow stalwart Carmen Farmer also played a pivotal part in Glendale’s win on both sides of the ball to earn Player of the Match honors.
“She was tilling up the field with her steps, making crucial tackles and amazing offloads and could break a forward ball,” Shalosky said of her teammate.
The aptly named Patsy Ford also looked like a Ford truck, breaking through the Surfers defensive lines.
While San Diego did manage to score a late penalty to close the gap at 21-15, the Merlins Elite Women would remain largely immovable in the second half defensively, holding onto the win.
Explained Shalosky, “We did well to adjust on defense to take away that offloading game, have some driving tackles and prevent that movement of the ball on the back line as well.”
With the road win in hand, Glendale is now an undefeated 3-0 in the course of its 2017 WPL campaign. But the team knows a long road lies ahead, and will continue to work on its defensive structure and reading the opponents’ game as it develops in the coming matches.
“This is step three on a journey,” said Shalosky. “We’ll continue to focus on that until it comes time to compete at nationals.”
The replay of this match is available on YouTube on USA Rugby’s Channel.
With a week off from WPL play, Glendale will return home next weekend to face Lindenwood University in a non-league match on Sept. 23. The match will kick off from Infinity Park at 5 p.m. and will follow the Glendale Merlins Men’s Elite Team taking on Mystic River at 3 p.m. Tickets are available online and at the gate, or you can stream the matches live on Infinity Park’s website.