2016 WPL season concludes.
GLENDALE – The Glendale Raptors concluded their Women’s Premier League (WPL) season over the weekend with a trip to the WPL Championships in Atlanta, Ga. After a weekend of action between the nation’s top teams, the Raptors landed their third-straight trip to the championship final, but were ultimately unable to defend their back-to-back titles, falling 26-16 to the San Diego Surfers in the penultimate match.
“We definitely played much better in the final than any other match we played in this entire season,” Raptors center Jeanna Beard said. “I’m proud of my teammates, and even though the outcome isn’t what we wanted, we still have each other to build up for next season and for the D1 National Championships in the spring!”
Glendale started the weekend off bright, dispatching New York Rugby Club, regular season leaders of the WPL Red Conference, by a score of 37-13 in a match which the Raptors led from start to finish.
“It was hard-fought,” Raptors forward Kristin “Shilo” Shalosky said of the opening match. “New York really tested us with a high-pace attack and tremendous skills. Their forwards came at us hard, especially Alycia Washington and Phaidra Knight. In turn, we stepped up our game. I think that we played our most consistently cohesive and aggressive defense.”
“Our backs were clinical on attack – moving the ball quickly, exploiting space and taking hard lines. Overall, we really played for each other and with intensity.”
Following a fifth-place finish last season, the Surfers continued their strong 2016 campaign with a 36-8 dispatching of Twin Cities, setting up a match with Glendale in the final, the third meeting between the Blue Conference foes this season.
But unlike their match against New York, Glendale were unable to produce a fast start offensively, falling behind to the Surfers 12-0 after 13 minutes of action. The Raptors cut the lead with a feed from Beard to Carmen Farmer, but USA Eagle Samantha Pankey tacked on a try in response to extend the Surfers lead to 19-5. Raptors fly half Hannah Stolba sent through a penalty just before the break to cut the score to 19-8 by halftime.
“We could have improved our finishing,” said Beard. “We had opportunities to finish and score, but we really needed to get there a little closer on support to get there in time for a quick, clean ball for our distributors.”
In the second half, Glendale was able to dig in, cutting the lead to 19-11 just past the hour mark. Five minutes later, the Raptors tacked on another try from Beard to draw within three at 19-16. But in the waning minutes of the game, and after multiple exchanges of possession, the Surfers broke through with a try which was the dagger, converting it for a final score of 26-16.
Despite failing to accomplish the three-peat, Raptors players acknowledged that everything was left out on the pitch.
“Every single person gave it all,” said Beard. “We were a unit, looking like rabid dogs hungry for that ball on defense, and charging through for that try line on attack. The subs that came in completely boosted the game of play. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
With the WPL season concluded, the Raptors women will now look ahead to the D1 championships in the spring.
Said Beard, “Our next goal is work for a Division 1 Championship with our amazing D1 Women’s Team. I’m so ready to work with them and cheer them on this spring the way they supported us this fall.”