Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WGR Classic Matches prt i

WGR Classic Matches

There have been a slew of memorable, classic matches in WGR over the last decade and a half.  So, we surveyed a few of the current and old-time conference coaches for their nominations.  Some were nominated because of the phenomenal play involved, some for the drama of a final playoff upset or a remarkable back and forth rivalry match.  All were great matches.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to rank them so we share them here chronologically.  We also rejected matches that didn’t take place in Wisconsin.  There are too many GREAT games from Nationals, Midwest, or on tour to include here.  We may feature those in a separate article at a later time. 
     Have any other nominations?  Do you have some names, details, picturesm or stories to add?  Send them to WGR at .  Please excuse the dates below;  there  may be some errors in memory from our older coaches.

Summer 1997  DSHA v Wayzata  @Veteran’s Park, Milwaukee Wisconsin
    The first-ever girls high school match in the state saw Wayzata, MN drive down from Minneapolis in a chartered coach bus to play the Dashers in their white and red striped long-sleeve cotton jerseys.  The Dashers looked like the Canadian flag, or perhaps the red-cross team.  Playing 10’s due to low numbers, the score was something like 30-5 in favor of Minnesota’s original powerhouse.  But the scoreline didn’t matter, history had been made.

Fall 1998  DSHA v Krusaders  Dretzka Park
     With excitement for the sport growing, a group of girls from Catholic Memorial High School came together under coach Linda Niemela.  Although the team only lasted a season or two, it included, just to name a few, the likes of Kate Sarner future Scylla player, future MU players Erin Wells and Karen Kleczka, and future UWM rugger Bobbi Heritsch.  The team had to call themselves the Krusaders with a K since the school would not sanction them in their first season.
     The match that makes the list was actually the second-match between the sides; it was memorable because the Krusaders upset the more ‘established’ team in a close contest.  A rivalry was born.
Fall 1999  DSHA v Marquette University B-side   King Field
     The first few years DSHA was the only girls team in the state and they struggled to find matches, playing frequently in Indiana, Minnesota, and more frequently against local college sides.  DSHA lost a lot of matches 80-0 and 100-0 in those first few years.  It’s amazing they stuck with it.
     This match was significant because it was the first time DSHA won a game against a college side.  Several more followed after this breakthrough.  The exact year may not be exactly right.  Fullback Colleen Brennan sprinted to two long tries on an old “double d” pattern.
Fall 2001  DSHA v Highland  i and ii (The debut and the rematch)
     The first Highland or Northshore team, consisting mostly of girls from Homestead high school under coach Rick Ferrara were a force to be reckoned with almost immediately.  Featuring a core of talented athletes including Samantha (#8) and Kimiko Ross (thp) and Angela Mathews (#13), they defeated DSHA at one point that fall and completed in nationals in the spring of 2002, finishing 3rd.  This fall conference match was when they shocked DSHA amidst Mathew’s debut.  A big rampaging center with incredible speed to boot, she was dominant against high school competition, requiring a host of tacklers.  She was the Jonah Lomu of her era in WGR and every team had to game plan for her.  DSHA came back in the rematch later that fall and was able to win the conference title when Highland tied KM.
Fall 2002  DSHA v Highland iii  Veteran’s Park Milwaukee. 
     The third of the three great matches between the two rivals.  It was the final conference match of the season.  Highland still had a really talented team and this game came down to the wire.    The last ten minutes of the match were spent down on DSHA’s tryline.  A long defensive stand repelled Highland again and again, until a turnover led to a 90-meter scamper and mad dash for a dramatic match-winning try on the final play of the game from young sensation Natalie Mills, one of the great ‘finishers’ of the WGR early years.    It also signified the beginning of the end of Highland’s championship claims.  They never defeated DSHA again.
Fall 2002  Kettle Moraine v DSHA  Season Opener, Naga-Waukee Park
    Kettle Moraine shocked DSHA in the conference opener winning 46-5.  The Dashers have never since lost by anything close to as wide a margin as that day.  The culmination of the day was a scrum push-over try.  Not technically legal in high school rugby, the ref let the KM scrum drive the extra three meters into the tryzone for their #8 Brittany Hanson to fall down on the ball for a symbolic try of dominance.  The Knightmares had recruited a stable-full of good young athletes including future full eagle Kati McKormick in her freshman debut, and future USA 19 Nicole Heil in the centers.  KM went on to defeat DSHA in the second match in their conference series, to become the only other team besides DSHA to be crowned State Champion.
Fall 2003  Kettle Moraine v DSHA Oct 12th Minooka Park
    The second of the two matches between the sides was also the last time DSHA would lose a match in Wisconsin for a remarkable 7 consecutive years.  While it’s a little unfair that DSHA gets mentioned whenever they lose, such is the burden of their unprecedented excellence, success, and the challenge of expectations.  They’ve had a lot of great wins in that span.  
    It was a close match.  KM dominated possession and rucks early, racking up a 17-0 halftime lead.  Their third try came on a break from the DSHA #15.  KM’s wing, Justine Ellenson, cracked down and got in the passing lane and when #15 passed, she intercepted.  Running for the corner, she still had to beat a covering weakside wing, but a powerful stiff arm helped her shrug off the tackle and dot down for the most dramatic score of the match. 
     DSHA came back with two tries in the second half, including a twenty meter scamper by flanker Alyssa Hext after she scooped up a turnover.  DSHA senior #8 JoJo Hoffman was a tackling and passing machine.  She later went on to help lead Ohio State to nationals in her collegiate career, played for the USA u19's on multiple occasions, and even worked at USA Rugby for a time. 
     Player of the match, though, had to be KM's outside center Alex Glorioso who seemed to sidestep, spin, and run through three to four tacklers on every run.  She carried KM in this classic match, as KM won 17-15.  DSHA would win the state title on aggregate points for the tie-breaker.


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