No. 2 Bonnies upend Cortland to claim league rugby title for first time since 2014
ST. BONAVENTURE — Meredith Pyke wasn’t blowing smoke.
When asked last week after thumping Oswego if her Bonnies could give Cortland a better game this season in the league title game, it didn’t take her long to spit out confidently: “Absolutely.”
Her conviction was warranted. In a back-and-forth game on a soggy grass pitch at Cortland Sunday afternoon, All-American Makenna Ramsey scored five times to lead St. Bonaventure to a 32-22 victory in the Upstate New York Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference title game.
The victory earned the Bonnies (7-0), ranked No. 2 in the National Collegiate Rugby small-college poll, a trip to Virginia Nov. 11-12 for one of four regional brackets of the NCR Small College national tournament. Cortland, ranked No. 5 nationally, could still earn an at-large bid in a different regional.
The win avenged a 48-17 loss to Cortland in the league title game last fall and gave the Bonnies their first UNYWCRC title since 2014.
“We just did a great job of staying connected and staying calm,” Pyke said. “Mistakes are bound to happen, especially when the conditions are like this and you’re playing a good team, but instead of getting frustrated, they did a good job of holding together.”
Senior Co-Captain Abby Beres scored the other try and Kyla Nentarz added the conversion to give the Bonnies a 17-12 lead at halftime, but Cortland tied it early in the second half before Ramsey scored three more times, the last with four minutes to play to give them a 10-point lead.
But unlike last week’s blowout of Oswego, when Ramsey scored several times on long runs, Sunday’s scoring efforts were the result of methodical, time-consuming drives. Cortland gave up ground begrudgingly, but that didn’t stop the Bonnies from taking each yard they could at every opportunity.
“We definitely had more possession time than they did and that was a credit to our pods,” Pyke said. “Abby and Kaylee Vincent and Jaylei (Wagstaff) and Katie (Patterson) did a great job. Playing against a tougher defense than they saw all season and not seeing as many open spaces, they saw the value of working together to just keep moving the ball down the field.”
A pod is when three forwards stand close to the scrum-half so that when one forward carries the ball forward, the other two can clear out the defenders in the breakdown and deliver quick ball.
Pairings for the regional brackets will be announced later this week.
“Given the season we had, I think we’ll have a pretty high seed,” Pyke said.