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Fallbrook Girls Rugby U18 takes fourth national title


Last updated 5/29/2014 at Noon

Alexi Eich soars in the lineout to win the ball for Fallbrook during the High School Girls National Championship match on May 18.

PITTSFIELD, MASS. – On Sunday, May 18, the Fallbrook Girls Rugby U18 team won its fourth national title in the High School Girls National Championship. Fallbrook, which had achieved the number one seed position after previous wins, played the number three seed, the Amazons of Sacramento, Calif. in the final match.

According toreporter Akeen Glaspie of the Berkshire Eagle, "The Amazons showed their strength early, but Fallbrook had plenty of strength and ample speed, leading to a 27-17 win for their fourth straight Division I crown.”

“We know they’re bigger and stronger,” Fallbrook coach Craig Pinnell said. “But we’re faster, so if we can play a pressure game in the beginning, we can tire them out. That’s the way we want to play those big teams.”

Fallbrook gave up size to the Amazons, and the team from Sacramento looked to impose its will early.

After a penalty kick from Alex Beckett put the Warriors up 3-0 early in the first half, the Amazons marched down the field, powering in a try from the right side after a quick pass out of a ruck. The missed conversion left the score at 5-3.

Sacramento showed some speed in the first half as well, scoring a long try after winning a Fallbrook lineout and a player sprinted untouched down the middle of the field. The Amazons made their kick after the try, taking a 12-3 lead. From that point on however, Fallbrook started to move the ball on Sacramento.

Casey Karl powered in a try late in the first half, cutting the Amazons’ lead 12-8 at halftime.

Despite trailing and playing in a physical match, Pinnell said, he felt his team had Sacramento on the ropes.

“We’re a fit team, so as far as the tiredness, that did not affect us,” he said. “We knew if we could move them around the field, that we could win it in the end because we’re fitter and we can move faster.”

Fatigue started to set in for Sacramento in the second half, allowing Fallbrook to show off its speed.

Karl punched in her second try of the day, muscling in deep in the right corner and giving Fallbrook its first lead of the day at 13-12. Karl showed some strength with her second try and from then on it was all about speed for Fallbrook.

Lilly Durbin broke off a long run, breaking away down the left side and scoring a try. MacKenzie Miller’s conversion put Fallbrook up 20-12.

Richelle Stephens dealt the knockout blow when she took a pitch from her teammate running left, splitting through the middle of Sacramento’s defense and scoring a try. Lilly Durbin’s kick put Fallbrook up 27-12.

Sacramento scored with about three minutes left, but the Amazons could not complete the comeback.

Casey Karl on the attack handing off North Bay (MD) defenders with Richelle Stephens in support.

After the match, the Warriors gathered to sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in celebration. For Pinnell, their belief can now become relief, as this year’s national championship journey is complete.

“Tiredness did not affect us, but more it was about [handling] the emotions of the final,” he said. “Every year it gets more intense, more difficult, and with more pressure. Everybody wants to take you down.”

The team, which had been in practice since October, traveled back east for national playoffs on May 15.

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