Wildcats girls rugby team of Elk River-Rogers wins state D-II tournament
The ISD 728 Rugby Club girls under-19 team, nicknamed Wildcats, finished the season 11-0 after winning the Minnesota Amateur Rugby Foundation tournament Division II title June 10-11.
The Wildcats beat Edina 14-5 in the championship match Sunday in Blaine.That was their third straight year in the finals, and the first time the Wildcats won the title.
They won their conference beating Hastings, Edina, Minnetonka, Faribault, East Metro, Waconia and Wayzata and also headily defeated the Wisconsin All-Stars first and second teams in a tune-up for state.
The Wildcats are from Elk River and Rogers, mostly girls who were sophomores and juniors this year. The coach is Nicole Henrickson, formerly a member of the Amazons, one of the top teams in Minnesota.
At state, the Wildcats won their opener 45-5 over Wayzata at Otsego VFW Park. The rest of the tournament was played at Blaine. The Wildcats beat Faribault 17-0 in the semifinals.
On Sunday the Wildcats faced Edina, against whom they had their toughest league game, winning just 17-15.
Following is a description of the championship match as described by Dave Shepherdson:
The Wildcats started the game with intense pressure which saw Edina under pressure in their 30 yard half, but even though the Wildcats were able to cross the try line three times Edina prevented the ball from being physically touched down.
A long clearing kick from Edina saw the girls race back to cover and mounted a counter attack. Miranda Olson (ERHS), hosted a high kick onto the Edina fullback who fumbled the ball. Emilie Schreiber (RHS) used her soccer skills to dribble the ball down field and scooped it up and dove in for the first try (5 points). Courtney Baltzer (RHS) got the additional 2 points to move the Wildcats into the lead 7-0
Edina struck back quickly with an outstanding effort but were unable to get the additional two points – score 7-5.
The Wildcats came back strong and after intense pressure for a sustained time, Emilie Schreiber used her speed to race around the running backs to score close to the posts. Courtney Baltzer once again was dead on target and the score moved to 14-5
Halftime and it proved two axioms a) a game is a tale of two halves and b) defense wins games.
Edina was determined to win and the Wildcats girls were forced to defend time after time. Six minutes from full time the dangerous Edina running backs struck back and were able to break through the Wildcats defense and race towards an open Wildcat try line. Only an outstanding cover tackle, all of a 30 yard run by Courtney Baltzer stopped a certain try and a potential game changing score.
Five minutes later the final whistle blew and the Wildcats and fans roared, third time around and they had achieved winning State for the Minnesota Girls Division II.