Elite Women's Rugby NewsGlendale Merlins Rugby
Glendale Merlins Rugby defend home turf at Infinity Park
GLENDALE – A wet and rainy afternoon didn’t stop the Glendale Merlins Rugby teams as both the men’s and women’s teams defended the home turf at Infinity Park with wins on Saturday afternoon.
The Glendale Merlins men’s Elite team kicked off the day’s action, hosting east coast powerhouse Mystic River in what would turn out to be a dominant performance by the Merlins, winning by a score of 64-7.
Photo by Seth McConnell
“Overall I was happy with the team’s performance,” said Merlins head coach David Williams. “We controlled the ball for large parts of the game and were generally pretty good on defense and our line speed and physicality.”
Glendale did just that in the opening minutes of the first half, scoring tries with both speed and finesse, as well as brute force to build a 19-0 lead on the back of three tries to open the match.
Mystic River finally answered to cut the lead to 19-7 at the 24-minute mark.
“They had some physical and skillful players that offered us challenges which we dealt with,” explained Williams.
Nonetheless, Glendale would dot down two more tries to enter the half with a commanding 31-7 lead.
The second half would continue to go the Merlins’ way, as Glendale dotted down five more tries. Glendale took time to spread the wealth as five different Merlins players: Shaun Davies, Casey Rock, Brian Wanless, Peter Dahl and Grigor Kerdikoshvili found the try zone.
In addition to the offensive performance, Glendale also tightened up defensively, holding Mystic River out of the try zone in the second half, cruising to to 64-7 win.
“Kelepi [Fifita] really improved from his performance against Ontario, Casey Rock had another good game, John Quill stood out again in both sides of the ball and Harley Davidson made an impact when he came on,” Williams said of his team’s performance.
Following the men’s match, the Glendale Merlins women took to the pitch, hosting Lindenwood University in a friendly match. The women closed out the afternoon with a victory of their own in a hard fought 17-10 win.
“It was a tough test for us, especially with the rain and wind,” said Merlins forward Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky. “We came out of the gates with a lot of fire, but took a bit of time to adjust to the conditions. One of our goals was to raise the level of our physicality from the opening minute and I think we did that well.”
The Merlins endured the sloppy and wet on-field conditions to build a 10-0 lead in the opening half, led by a penalty kick from Hannah Stolba and a try from winger Justine Wypych.
The Merlins extended their lead to 17-0 at the 48-minute mark in the second half with the second try of the day, this time from flanker Kris Peterson.
In addition to Peterson, who lived up to her “Barrelman” nickname by barreling through the opponents, Merlins Amandine “Chatty” Chatelier and Julie Tordonato also had standout performances with standout defensive efforts throughout the 80 minutes of play.
But the visitors would not be held off the board. An interception led to a Lindenwood try four minutes later, cutting Glendale’s lead to 17-5. Lindenwood added their second try of the afternoon with nine minutes remaining in the match to cut the lead again to 17-10, but the Merlins held strong in the final minutes, denying their opponents from equalizing and holding onto the win.
“Lindenwood is a really strong side. Their handling skills are clinical and they have attacking threats across the pitch,” explained Shalosky. “They gave us a defensive challenge with their strong runners and their offloading game, and we responded by working to connect more on defense on close off their options.”
With another win in hand, the Glendale Merlins will return to Women’s Premier League action next week against Oregon Sports Union (ORSU).
“We are doing well building each week,” said Stolba. “I think we can say that we are getting better each game so far this season. Everyone is continuing to grow and work with each other and that’s just what we need to continue to do in a season like this.”
The Merlins will once again be at home next weekend, with the elite men’s team playing another non-league matchup against New York Athletic Club on Sept 30. That match will kick off from Infinity Park at 3 p.m.
The Glendale Merlins Women’s Premier League side will follow against Oregon Rugby Sports Union, with kickoff set for 5 p.m.
Stadium gates open at 2 p.m. on Saturday and tickets are available online at glendalemerlins.com or at the gate.
Outside of the stadium match ups and on the Infinity Park Turf Field, the Glendale Merlins D2 Men will take on Denver Highlanders (1 p.m.).