Merlins outlast Berkeley in WPL road opener

by | Sep 5, 2017 | Elite Women

GLENDALE – It’s a new brand, complete with a new name and new uniforms, but in their first match, the Glendale Merlins women proved that not much else has changed. The Merlins started off their Women’s Premier League (WPL) campaign off with a win, defeating the Berkeley All Blues in a thrilling 27-26 road win.

Glendale Merlins at Berkeley All Blues

Photo by Drew Anneberg

“For us, it was a great first test – it revealed areas we’ll need to focus on going forward and also highlighted strengths this squad has already,” said Merlins forward Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky. “It’s left me really excited about what we’re going to build this season.”

Despite the temperatures exceeding 100 degrees at match time, Glendale started off strong with tries from Justine Wypych, Leann Lam and Andrea Prusinski in the first half. Fly-half Hannah Stolba also put in a strong first-half performance, converting on two of the three tries and adding a penalty kick to give the Merlins a commanding 22-0 lead heading into halftime.

Said Shalosky, “On our side, I was really impressed with the way we connected as a team; most of our tries went through several pairs of hands (forwards and backs) before we dotted down. If I had to call out a few individuals: Joanna “Skidz” McElroy made her mark with several critical line breaks and high work rate at the breakdown; Alli Hale had a great game at fullback and made absolutely fearless tackles; Justine “JT” Wypych carved up the defense, in what has become her signature style.”

Alli Hale earned the Rugby Athletic Player of the Match honors for her performance.

Allison Hale - Glendale Merlins

Photo by Drew Anneberg

Glendale added to that lead with another try to start off the second half, putting the score at 27-0 before a required water break due to the extreme temperatures. After the break, the hosting All-Blues mounted a second-half comeback effort, scoring four unanswered tries. The last try went unconverted however, and the Merlins held on for the 27-26 road win.

“I think we came off the gas a bit at halftime with a comfortable lead and the heat and they were able to capitalize on that a few times,” Shalosky explained. “We showed our composure as a team in the final minutes of the match though as we held onto possession to finish with the win – huge credit to our leadership there.”

The Merlins are now 1-0 in league action, but with it still being early days in the Merlins 2017 campaign, the team will continue to work hard in the coming weeks. Up next is the home opener at Infinity Park on Sept. 9 against Chicago North Shore at 5 p.m. This match is preceded by two matches: Glendale’s D2 Men facing the Denver Barbarians at 1 p.m. and Glendale’s Elite Men taking on the Ontario Arrows at 3 p.m.

“To reach the next level, we need to build up on our defensive integrity and ball in contact to maintain possession,” Shalosky said of the team’s preparations.