The first time Chicago North Shore faced Glendale this season, the outcome was not as rewarding as yesterday’s Women’s DI Club Championship against the Raptors. In the end, penalties were the difference, and North Shore took its opportunities at goal to pad a 13-5 win.
“We’ve played this team before and we know that they very seldom go for their points,” North Shore coach John Tisdall said. “They’re more of a quick-tap-and-go team. Our strategy was to try and play it in their half, because we know they commit a lot of penalties, and we figured we’d take our shots when we got them. Pam Kosanke is a phenomenal kicker and can pretty much slot it from anywhere. Figured we’d go with that and luckily we got a try at the end there to take us.”
The strategy proved effective as Glendale earned two yellow cards over the course of the game, and although those particular instances didn’t result in points, the penalties halted some dangerous offensive drives.
Kosanke accounted for all of the North Shore’s points, the first of which occurred early in the game from a 30-meter penalty. The flyhalf slotted another three-pointer later in the half for the 6-0 lead into the break.
In between penalties, a wonderfully physical battle ensued. Standouts among Glendale included No. 8 Jill Potter, who smothered ballcarriers from touchline to touchline and earned the MVP nod. Flyhalf Hannah Stolba was quick to take advantage of an undermanned weakside, and made some nice yardage down the sideline. Wing Tyra McGrady also did well to advance her team downfield and was gritty enough in the tackle to poach some possession.
And North Shore countered well. Loose forwards Kate Daley and Sarah Walsh and locks Nova Riemer and Lani Larson were dynamic on defense and around the breakdown. Fullback Teena Mastrangelo wasn’t beat once in the backfield, and center Jenny Lui played an important role in the kick and chase game.
“We were lucky enough that we had the wind at our back the first half to go up 6-0 in the first half,” Tisdall said. “In the second half, we changed it up a bit. We kept it close and didn’t fling it wide. We wanted to play nice, controlled rugby. They’re a team that capitalizes on your mistakes, but they haven’t been put under pressure all year. So we pressured them, and luckily enough they missed out on a couple of opportunities where they didn’t execute. If they had executed, it might have been a different bounce of the ball but luckily enough the ball bounced our way.”
Both sides were able to produce exciting shifts in territory, but the 22 meter was difficult to cross for both sides. There weren’t many goal-line stances. During a North Shore series of forward punches that wasn’t gaining much ground around Glendale’s 40 meter, Kosanke chipped the ball over the defense and gathered a fortuitous bounce. She beat the fullback coming across for the 20-meter try and conversion, 13-0.
It’s safe to say that spectators were shocked. North Shore was expected to give the Raptors a good game, but no one picked the late-blooming team to put 13 points between themselves and the country’s biggest point scorers.
“Since last year, when we finished third, we’ve lost some players and gained some players,” Tisdall explained. “In the beginning of the season we were still trying to get our groove on, trying to figure out things. We’re the underdogs today; Glendale has all of the pressure. Anything but winning was a failure for those guys, so we figured we’d go and have some fun and see what happens.”
Glendale got on the board when Potter picked from the base and set up McGrady for a break down the sideline. The forwards picked up the movement with a series of punches and stayed in North Shore’s end thanks to some penalties. During one of the only goal-line attacks all game, Glendale was eventually rewarded with a dive-over try, 13-5.
Kosanke nearly added another three points immediately after the Glendale try, but the blustery wind was blowing into the kick and it sailed wide.
Glendale gave it everything they had and dove into its deep bench to keep the pressure on.
“We’ve experienced losses and tough, physical games,” Tisdall said. “Glendale’s been running away with it all year. We truly felt that if it came down the last five minutes of the game that we had the edge because we’ve played in those close games and we know that feeling. Glendale was having a hard time with that; they’re not used to getting on their back foot.”
North Shore kept their cool and finished out the game without surrendering any more points.
“Our key veteran players stepped up – Kate [Daley], Sarah Walsh,” Tisdall said. “They never stopped believing, even when we were 0-2. They always believed they were going to get to this point. This team has phenomenal chemistry. We have some big name players, but they all realize it’s 14 girls trying to get that 15th girl over the try line.”
North Shore stuck to that mentality all season and it’s seen them to the top of the DI podium.