Queens finish season with home triumph

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With a little help from friends, New Mexico Tech’s Queens finished their fall season at home Saturday, overcoming the challenge of the Red Mountain Rugby Club of Tempe, Ariz., 61-20. A victory brimming with running rugby cheered the home audience on the heels of a 62-7 loss to Santa Fe by the Tech men’s team.

The win was the Queens’ first of the season and compensated for a loss to Red Mountain in Tempe on March 23. Deepening Tech’s satisfaction was a victory with a full 15-player complement rather than abbreviated sides. The only caveat for Tech was the loan for a day of two members of the New Mexico State Lady Chiles and two from the University of New Mexico Lady Lobos. Some of these players also assisted Red Mountain in the second half.

Right wing Kellie Kerner, an NMT earth and environmental sciences graduate student, broke an early stalemate between the two teams. Kerner showed her speed and scoring instinct in the fifth minute of play by streaking past the Red Mountain defense in the narrow area near the touch (out of bounds) line. Her try-scoring run covered 40 meters and produced an early 5-0 advantage for the Queens.

Whitney Underwood of the UNM contingent scored for the Queens from the left wing 10 minutes into the match. The Arizonans then showed what they could do by maintaining ball possession through a long series of tackles, working the ball down close to Tech’s line, and finally punching through for a well-worked try.

With Tech’s lead trimmed to 10-5, Kerner struck with another graceful run after the ball popped free in contact to increase the lead to 15-5. Red Mountain competed well up front but had problems defending the ends of their line, and Underwood took full advantage by scoring three more long tries to balloon Tech’s lead to 30-5 just a minute before halftime. Red Mountain maintained their composure enough to push across another try right at the whistle for a 30-10 score at the five-minute break.

Red Mountain scored their third try just three minutes into the second half, but then it was all Tech and company as eight forwards served up plenty of ball possession for halfback Cassie Coleman to pass on to fly half Nicole Gayer and a hungry line of backs. Several times Gayer’s and center Willie Desir’s passes loosed Kellie Kerner and sensational UNM freshman Hannah Waufle into defensive gaps. Waufle hustled her way to three tries and Kerner completed her hat trick. The visitors restored their pride with a try in the 77th minute, setting the stage for NMT’s Ashley Bustamante to score her first-ever try in the corner and account for the 61-20 final score.

Graduate EES student Phoebe Nicholls was named Woman of the Match by the Queens for her exemplary tackling and all-around play. The Queens will undertake strength training throughout the winter and return to field activities with the resumption of spring classes at New Mexico Tech.

For more information on women’s rugby at Tech write to dwheelock@admin.nmt.edu or call 835-5854.