Happy homecoming

Quinnipiac rugby christens new home field with convincing win over Army

By on September 2, 2017

The Black Knights came to Hamden with revenge on their minds after a 65-8 rout at the hands of the Bobcats in last year’s semifinals. What they got was more punishment courtesy of the Bobcats and their new home field.

In the first game ever at the Bobcats’ new stomping ground, the defending national champions handled Army 42-22 for their fifth straight win against the Black Knights.

Photo Courtesy of Quinnipiac Athletics
It’s always important to begin the season in the win column, but it was particularly special for a Bobcats team that was a champion without a home a season ago. Now, in front of an excited home crowd, the Bobcats were able to enjoy a win while playing on a wider, regulation sized field.

“It’s phenomenal to have 15 yards of extra space out there,” head coach Becky Carlson said about the extra room on their new field. “It’s kind of like they are wild animals that have been let out of their cage.”

Senior Ilona Maher had the look of a monster out of its cage in the second half, scooping up two loose balls and rumbling for two of her three tries to help the Bobcats pull away.

“Ilona’s always there to scoop up a loose ball and strong-arm her way through,” Carlson said of the MA Sorensen Award winner. “Her partnering up with Flora Poole and Mikah Maples is pretty unstoppable.”

Maples looked hard to stop on the pitch, scoring three tries of her own to already match her total last season. The Bobcats found themselves in tough conversion situations after scoring and missed their first five attempts, but were still able to build a 25-10 lead at the half.

It wasn’t easy at first, as the Bobcats appeared to be ironing out some of the kinks that come with the first game of the season. Army used a nifty run from Jill Bottarini to take a 7-5 lead eight minutes into the game. The Bobcats missed multiple tackles to allow Bottarini to score from the Quinnipiac 10 metre line and give Army the lead.

“It took longer to get going than we would have liked,” said Taylor Schussler, who added a try in the first half. “There’s kinks that need to be worked out, but it will get better with every game.”

It got better with every minute as Army was able to enjoy their lead for a mere 10 minutes before it was snatched away for good, as Maher used the width of the field to streak down the sideline before being taken down just shy of the goal line. She would finish the job moments later for her first try of the season, sparking a run for the Bobcats in which they scored 20 straight points.

Shortly after Schussler’s try, the Black Knights were dealt a tough blow when All-American Sydney Hawkins went down after a tackle by Maher. She would not return and the Black Knights would never get back in the game.

For the second straight year, the Bobcats shook off a rusty start and put Army away. Coming into the second half with a 25-10 lead, the Bobcats scored within the first three minutes and added two more tries to build a cozy 42-10 lead. The Black Knights were able to convert two tries in the final 10 minutes, but the Bobcats were able to begin their quest for a three-peat with a convincing win.

The quest for history continues next Saturday when the Bobcats leave the confines of their new home to visit Dartmouth, who was ranked fourth in the nation in the preseason NIRA poll. Quinnipiac was unanimously voted number one, and showed why against the third-ranked Black Knights.

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