Originally published in Rugby Magazine | [RMR Note: In 1991, tries were only worth 4 points.]
"Air Force Wins First Women's Collegiate Championship"
by Bruce Rowen
May 25-26, 1991
The Air Force Academy Zoomies overwhelmed a field of four other teams to capture the initial Steinlager/USARFU Women's Collegiate Championship.
Air Force (the Western Champs) topped Boston College, the Eastern titlist and pre-tourney favorite, 12-0 in Sunday's final.
5 Teams for 8 Spots
An eight-team championship had been planned, but the eligibility rules and financial constraints limited the number of entrants to five: Air Force, B.C., Montana, Michigan, and Princeton.
13 Undergraduates Required
The USARFU eligibility rules for women's collegiate rugby stipulate that 13 players on the field at any given time have to be undergraduates of the institution. Many women's "collegiate" teams, though, include non-undergraduates at the present time and are unable to field an eligible team.
Same Scenario as Men's College Teams
That, however, was once the case with the men's college teams. Yet the allure of competing for regional and national championships and the emergence of coaches and administrators to enforce such rules shifted the emphasis to all-undergraduate men's teams.
Air Force made its way to the final by clobbering the University of Michigan 30-0, gutting out a close victory over Princeton 6-3, and, in the semifinals, easily handling Montana 38-0.
Meanwhile, the Boston College Eagles beat Montana 12-0 and then Princeton 7-3 in the semifinals. However, B.C. looked lackadaisical in the process, relying on last-minute tries in both games.
Coming into the event, B.C. was top-ranked on the strength of its two consecutive Rugby-East collegiate titles and the fact they play regular, tough competition in New England, which has by far the largest concentration of women's college teams. But its flat performance in the preliminaries gave the edge to Air Force, which appeared to possess superior athletes and was playing skilled, well-honed rugby.
Less than three minutes into the final, Air Force scored off second-phase ball. Center Joyce Elmore crashed through to the try line, Air Force won the ensuing ruck, and wing Karen Perez scored in the corner, 4-0.
At the ten-minute mark, Air Force scored again, notching a pushover score against the larger B.C. pack to go up 8-0.
The final score of the half (and the game) mirrored the first, as Perez scoredin the corner after a successful ruck (12-0).
Whenever B.C. threatened to score in the second half, the maniacal hitting of Air Force knocked the Eagles for a loop.
"We were not bigger than the other teams, that's for sure," said Air Force assistant coach Judy Graffis, "but we were definitely faster and in much better condition. We also like to hit people."
Referee: Laurel Lockett (East; Florida)
* replaced by Bailey
MVPs and Leading Scorers
Crafty Air Force scrumhalf Margo Willoughby was named Most Valuable Player, while Dana Teagarden (Air Force) and Sue Hanneman (Montana) got honorable mention.
Air Force was also led in its winning effort by wing Karen Perez (24 points) and outside center Joyce Elmore (20 points), the tourney's two high scorers.
College and Club
The five college teams were well treated by the women's clubs in attendance for the National Women's Club Championship, and the Collegiate final was slotted between the Club consolation and Club final.
At the banquet, all speakers praised the collegiate players as the bearer's of the sports future. Judging by the caliber of play exhibited by the five teams, women's rugby is in good hands.
More info on the 1991 Air Force Women's Team, including full team roster and anecdotes from the season, via the USAFA alumni website
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