Eagles Upset NY, Lady Pies, Tigers all win at Easterns

Mother Nature threw down quite a gauntlet this past weekend.

It began the day before the Eastern Regional tournament at Miller Fields on the campus of North Carolina State, as the teams were affected by the travel delays caused by the weather in the Northeast.  Some players didn’t get in until late Friday night, some not until Saturday, and one or two not at all.

Saturday morning saw the players come to the ground and discover that this Southern heat was not a dry one at all. Temperatures in the 90s with high humidity meant that fitness would be at a premium, cramps would be an issue, and anything was possible once the ball went up.

Indeed, one fortnight after the #1 team in the country, Austin, went down at the Central Regional, the #2 team went down in the Eastern Regional.  In their stead, a Baltimore-Washington outfit that had the look of a team reminiscent of their halcyon days of over a decade ago.  In the second men’s division, the home team, used to the weather and making their return to NC State for the first time in a decade, didn’t disappoint.  And the New York Lady Magpies discovered once again that they weren’t the only talented women’s footballers on the East Coast.

For scores and full match replays of the Eastern Regional Tournament, Click here.

MEN’S DIVISION 1

The opener pitted Columbus and Boston, and right away, it was clear that the three-digit margin that was result of the game the two teams played Memorial Day weekend was an aberration.  The key man for the Jackaroos was Mark McClure, and the angular ruckman was the lightning rod for his club in being a transitional force.  Midfielder Dan Hamilton and half-forward Rob Adams made life difficult for PJ Devine, Ty Simmons and the Boston defense, and the pressure would yield four goals, and a 28-7 halftime edge.

The second half started better for Boston, with Daniel Fleming, John “Stretch” Newton, and Will Calvert-Jones being the prime movers to create chances.  Even Devine, who is known for being a defensive minded player, got on the scoresheet.  The Dees had their goes, but the C-bus defense remained stout.  Adams finished the game with 3 goals, McClure with a couple from long distance, and captain Clyde Simpson was one of three singletons in a 54-19 victory.

Game two pitted Baltimore-Washington and New York, this time on a field that devoid of water.  Both teams were missing key players.

The Magpies have always had skill and good awareness of the field, able to pick players out.  On this day, however, they were woefully behind in the height column.  And big Ben Crenca, who came right out of the pages of some ancient fairy tale, made life difficult in the middle for the Manhattanites.  Though Mike Murphy and the ‘Pies would get their share of chances, it was Ian Payne and Sam Rowley, half forward and full forward, respectively, who would win just about anything in the air.  The Eagles had done something they haven’t done in a long, long time – beat New York, and beat them thoroughly.

Final score: 64-22 to BWE, and with that, the Division became wide open.  The loss would be a costly for the Eagles, though, as they would lose key forward Keith Thornburg for the season with a torn bicep.

By happenstance, it would be the two winners from the morning meeting in the second round of games, with the winner earning the right to put one hand and/or wing on the trophy.  Columbus had defeated BWE in both prior meetings, but from the tap both teams were even.  As was the opener, all roads went through Mark McClure for Columbus, and the Steve Raimo/Nathan Thornbury backline held tight for Columbus while their offence put up chances.  But it was a tale of two scorelines; at the half, the game was tied at 18, but with Columbus at 2.6 while BWE kicked three straight.

The second half started with Rob Adams kicking the opening goal to give Columbus a six point advantage.  But then, the complexion of the game changed when McClure went down with a knee injury.  Hearts were in throats not only for the Jacks, but for Revolution supporters as well, considering the important role he looks to play in Melbourne.  He walked from the field, albeit gingerly, and as of this writing, his status going forward is uncertain.

But without their lightning rod, Columbus was in trouble.  Ian Payne slotted home two more goals in quick succession as Simpson took over in the ruck.  The Jacks would not give up, as they would even the game at 30 soon afterwards. 

But while Clyde has a great many attributes, height is not one of them.  Ultimately, Crenca took control of the ruck, and Payne took the game over, kicking four goals in a row. Rowley would kick four in a row in his own right as he and Dean Vigus turned on their Sherrin magnets as well, as the Eagles scored the final 43 points of the game, and astoundingly connected on 12 of 13 scoring shots to run out 73-30 victors.  The Jackaroos were full of fight the whole game, but ultimately it was all Eagles.

While the Eagles kicked away to 2-0, New York had its hands full with Boston, ultimately squaring way their first win of the day, turning aside the Demons by 25 points.  That left Boston as the only thing left between the Eagles and their first ever Regional title.  BWE got a more stout challenge from the Dees, but again the forwards snaked their way into the Demons back line and were the difference as they got over the line by 15 points to wrap up trophy.

As for the 1-1 Magpies and 1-1 Jackaroos, they were playing for a coveted second win, and the small hope that the winner would get up over the Eagles should Boston got on top.  Both teams laid it all out, and both sides punched and counterpunched throughout the game, energy already drained from playing their third game of football in stifling conditions.  Andrew Davis and Brenton Hocking were the primary ball winners for New York, while Simpson, Adams, and Dan Hamilton found holes in the further exhausted Magpies side.

The game was 25-25 at the half, and like previous game, Columbus were at the mercy of a slightly fitter side.  Hocking, Davis, and Patrick O’Leary connected to shove Columbus away to arm’s length, then held on as Adams narrowed the scoreline which ended up with the ‘Pies 14 points to the good.

Though one can make arguments one way or the other about who brought down home to North Carolina, Baltimore-Washington proved that they were legit in their sweep on Saturday.  New York’s inconsistency on the road perhaps showed through, but they played three games of tough football.  Columbus was very unlucky to have lost their two best players on the weekend to injury, but they can hold their heads high.  And Boston, despite not having a win to show for the weekend, proved itself to be worth opponent, which they’ll hope to take into the season’s second half.

WOMEN’S DIVISION

Last season, the New York Lady Magpies found themselves in a long battle with a team of all comers from up and down the East Coast.  They would see another tough fight to defend their regional title, playing along side players from Boston and Philadelphia.  Their opponent: the Columbus Jillaroos, combined with the Baltimore-Washington Lady Eagles.  The Jills had, oddly enough, teamed with the ‘Pies in 2015 to defeat Minnesota in the Central regionals.

The Magpies spent the first stanza playing on the front foot.  Kim Hemenway had the game’s first real chance, a 45 meter free kick which dropped short in the goal square and finished by Lauren Skonieczny to open the scoring.  Philly’s Amy Arundale and Erica Sacci established their roles as point people in the transition game, helping their teammates out of trouble and getting the forwards going.  Hemenway would boot home a couple of goals, Natalie Wolff got on the scoresheet as well, and New York and co. were up 28-1 at quarter time.

If the game looked like it would devolve into a rout, the Jills had other ideas.  Katrina Scherer began to win more of the footy despite the excellent effort of Andi Hargrave, her opposite in the ruck, and Molly Halberstadt’s runs were causing headaches for the veteran Magpie defenders.  They also allowed Alex Pike to get open, and the national team veteran slotted home two of her own to commence “game-on!”.  At the same time, the Columbus backline, led by BWE newcomer Marissa Mullins, Freedom veteran Karen Stablein, and Jillaroo rookie Roxy Alei, kept the Lady ‘Pies to just two points for the frame, and at the long break the ‘Pies led 30-23.  Philly’s other rookies, Lauryn Kelly and Michelle Megill, both inserted themselves into the play, with Kelly coming close to scoring, and Hemenway hitting the post on a long range range effort.  Boston’s Tracy Toner was asserting herself in the play as well, forcing mistakes.

The third quarter saw the teams feel the effect of the heat, and the Magpies put the pressure back on the Columbus defense.  Clare Algozin swashbuckled her way through the fifty meter arc and got a goal for her troubles, but Christina Licata’s charges simply could not put away their foes, while keeping them to just one behind on the quarter behind the play of defenders Drea Casillas, Taylor Davidson, and Cailin Deal.  A scary moment occurred late in the quarter when Jillaroo forward Megan Hils was concussed; she was treated at a local hospital and released later in the day.  New York led 40-24 at the 3QT time hooter.

Pendulums of momentums swing in time.  That’s why they’re pendulums, it’s what they do.  And this one swung back to the Columbus side of things with 17 minutes to make things right.  And when Katrina Scherer kicked a goal to bring her team back to within a straight kick, it looked like Uncle Mo (that’s short for momentum, you know) would be on the Jills side.  Jessica Hoover, playing in support of the forward line, accumulated a number of 1%ers, as did midfielder Amy Brynarsky.  But in the end, New York held on to a 43-30 win, after an entertaining display of women’s footy.

If nothing else, the play of the players going to Melbourne impressed.  And while players like Wolff, Casillas, and Scherer were their normal solid selves, the Liberty players, such as Halberstadt, Sacci, and Arundale, and Balsley got a good number of disposals and were key components for their sides.

MEN’S DIVISION 2

Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington’s B side met in the opener of D2 and the Hawks, coming off a win in Pittsburgh against a combined Cleveland/Ohio Valley side, went straight to work on putting the screws on the Eagles.  The Hawks shut out their winged foes in the first half, led by the forward play of Greg Glasgow and Jon Ginsberg, and though BWE got back into the game in the second half, the Hawks picked up a winning decision by 26 points.

The Hawks then had to take on the homestanding North Carolina Tigers for a chance to take out the title, but the Tigers had other ideas.  Led by Revo Erik Hanson, The Tiges blanked Philly in the opening term, then held them to just two goals in the second half to win 53-12.  The margin of victory essentially eliminated Philly from winning the division, while a win over the Eagles would mean victory for themselves.

Any doubt that North Carolina would have any issues with the Eagles’ reserves was wiped away in the opening seconds when Scott Bradley kicked a major score.  From there, the dominance was palpable, and with Hanson and company leading the charge, they build a big lead that the Eagles ate into towards the end of the game, but ultimately could not topple.  55-21 to Carolina, and the D2 title with it.

Photo: Eric Brown

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