Lady Rats | NERFU Champs
For the second consecutive year, Charles River Women’s Rugby Football Club has taken the DIII cup at the annual NERFU championship, this time overcoming Springfield and North Shore at the annual Newport, Rhode Island tournament. The Lady Rats put on two strong performances, defeating Springfield 25-5 on Saturday afternoon, and North Shore 15-0 on Sunday to take the title.
With a late 4PM start on Saturday, the Lady Rats had time to gather and strategize before facing a rearing Springfield squad seeking vengeance for a slim margin of defeat against River just two weeks prior. Charles River rose to the task, playing a well-supported, fifteen-strong match, with even distribution through forwards and backs. A successful River platoon was captained by plentiful veteran talent in the pack. River’s loose forwards, Susan Lackey and Kara McAuliffe flanking Chrissy “C” Andronico at #8, played an outstanding game. Springfield had little breathing room in the pack and insufficient time in transition from the flyhalf with these three bearing down. The Rat backs played a strong defensive game, caging a Rifle line known to have speed to the outside. Showcasing its own fleetness, a roaring River squad broke around Springfield, looping and offloading on the outside. Firing with enthusiasm and catalyzed by their momentum, Charles River rolled to a comfortable lead. The tight five of the Orange and Green packed down with confidence. Locks Jordan Ciciliano and Jess Packard ran with precision and tackled with power. River’s experienced front row, with Karen Smith and Jehanne “Juggs” Junguenet propping for hooker Lisa Natalicchio, orchestrated several steals in the scrum. River’s deep talent was on display as Whitney McCoy, Jen Garner, Linda Morris, Anne “Wales” Beaumont and Nina Romá Agvanian subbed seamlessly into the pack. River’s 10 through 15 spoiled Springfield advances, while creating opportunities through the sharp play calling of flyhalf Jenn “JVK” VanKuren. The ubiquitous Julie “Traut” Trautwein and rookie Alicia Scahill played impressive matches at wing, containing speedy Springfield and still having the wheels to break for gains. Centers Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee and Amanda Martin, with fullback kicker Maegan Hoover, walled the middle, making sharp tackles in tight space. With the undeniable chemistry running through the lineup on the back of River fulcrum Erin Gillespie at scrumhalf, the Rats earned a well-oiled 25-5 victory in their first match.
While scoreboard watching in their division following the victory, the Rats saw each of the three teams in the other bracket come away with a 1-1 record in round robin play. By virtue of points scored, River’s opponent for the DIII cup game, once again, would be club rival the North Shore Monsoons. Having kindled a conflagrant contention over the past five years, the two teams prepared for an aggressive match.
On Sunday morning, the Rats took the pitch for the final time this spring season. Having shuffled another starting lineup, Charles River again displayed versatility through both forwards and backs. Vet flyhalf Alex Schmidt returned to her spot at the helm of the back line, with Jenn “JVK” VanKuren moving to outside center and Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee to the wing. The move proved advantageous, as Wetherbee would have a very strong game on the outside, and Schmidt would assist on each of the two Charles River tries. Again, River’s technical prowess would be on display against a larger pack, as they saw success with Julie “Traut” Trautwein returning to prop and Jen Garner getting the start at #8. The heavy-hitting team of Susan Lackey and Kara McAuliffe stalked North Shore ball carriers, stifling the Monsoons from the flanker spots. The game cadence ebbed and flowed early, as teams traded negligible gains through the middle. Creating a pace change, Charles River began to spin the ball out wide. The Rats broke onto the scoreboard as Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee caught the corner on the wing, blowing by the North Shore defender and sprinting up the touch line from midfield. Fullback Maegan Hoover laced the conversion, giving the Orange and Green a seven point lead. River capitalized on its momentum once again. The fifteen Lady Rats ran in excellent support, offloading under pressure. River maintained ball possession on the rucking strength of Anne “Wales” Beaumont and Jordan Ciciliano, later aided by prop Whitney McCoy. Again, the back line played a suffocating defense. North Shore failed to penetrate the line through Amanda Martin and Jenn “JVK” VanKuren. Moving the ball wide also proved fruitless, as Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee and Alicia Scahill flattened wings to the outside. In time, Scahill helped River capitalize on a turnover—the fleet wing received a pass on the outside, tearing up the sideline for the second River score.
Having gained a twelve point lead, River leaned heavily on ball management. Veteran commander Chrissy “C” Andronico, checking into the match at #8, held scrums steady for dexterous scrumhalf Erin Gillespie, while running excellent support on ball carries. River’s on-field communication remained fluid, an invaluable asset to the effort to close out North Shore in the second half. Pushing back into Monsoon territory late in the game, River was awarded a penalty inside the 22-meter mark. Electing to kick for points, deft fullback Maegan Hoover split the uprights, making the deficit three scores for North Shore. At the match’s end, North Shore pressed deep into River territory. But the resilient Orange and Green would not yield, orchestrating a goal line stand that maintained their 15-0 shutout through the referee’s final whistle.
Having captured their second straight NERFU cup, the Rats celebrated by the water at beautiful Fort Adams State Park before shaking hands with North Shore. Captains Amanda Martin and Jehanne “Juggs” Junguenet offered enthusiastic, proud words of encouragement to their squad before naming the tournament MVPs. Martin and Junguenet selected Alicia Scahill from the backs, and the veteran on-field conductor Kara McAuliffe from the forwards for the Springfield match. For the championship game, the captains recognized wing Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee for her impressive runs and stodgy defense, and flanker Susan Lackey for her bone-crunching tackles throughout the weekend. With the tournament wins, River finished the spring season with an 8-2 overall record and a DIII cup title.
Charles River would like to thank Springfield and North Shore for two competitive games. They would also like to thank coaches Jess Balogh and Brian Lottridge for their time, and all of the enthusiastic fans who cheered the Orange and Green to victory through the spring. The Lady Rats will be in action at various tournaments throughout the summer, and will be moving up to Division II for NERFU play in the fall.