WPL Merlins Dominant On The Road: Shutout Chicago North Shore
Following a win against Berkeley at home on September 8, the Women’s Premier League Merlins traveled to Chicago this weekend, taking down Chicago North Shore in decisive fashion. With a mix of experienced veterans and young talent, and under the direction of Head Coach Luke Gross, the WPL Merlins have clawed their way to the top of the Blue Conference standings with the league’s first shutout this year.
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Conditions in Illinois were less than ideal: hot temps and high humidity testing the endurance of both teams. The 14th minute saw the first points of the bout, Glendale’s Nichole Wanamaker finding the try zone and dotting down – a sight that would become painfully familiar to North Shore over the course of the match. Hannah Stolba’s conversion attempt successful, the Merlins took an early 7-0 lead. At 23 minutes, Wanamaker touched down for five more, the completed conversion extending the Merlins lead to 14-0. Stolba found the try zone herself just four minutes later, again converting to push Glendale to a commanding 21-0 lead entering the halftime break.
The visiting Colorado side wasted no time in the second half, Christen Suda putting five points on the board in the 48th minute. The conversion attempt missed, the Merlins went ahead 26-0 over Chicago. At the 56-minute mark, Wanamaker found the try zone once more, completing a hat trick. The kick after good, Glendale extended their impressive lead to 33-0.
In what can only be described as an offensive clinic, Wanamaker dotted down her fourth try of the day at 74 minutes. Stolba’s conversion successful, the Merlins entered the final minutes of the contest with an insurmountable 40-0 lead. Maintaining the offensive push that characterized the entire contest, the Merlins found the try zone once more before the final whistle, finisher Hannah Tennant dotting down in the 78th minute. Glendale would walk off the pitch with heads high, a decisive 45-0 victory to take back to Colorado.
Head Coach Luke Gross had nothing but praise for his side, but knows carrying the momentum of the last two weeks is critical to winning the WPL Championship: “Now we’re the top of our table. We have to maintain that, and keep our winning mentality. I’m extremely proud of these girls. They played a hell of a game.” Merlin of the Match Nichole Wanamaker was magnanimous about her stellar performance: “I had a lot of support. It was a team effort and I just ended up having the ball when we got to the try zone,” she said. “We wanted to go into this game and make a statement. We did that. We got the job done.” With seven tries and 45 unanswered points on the day, her conviction is an understatement.
The next home match for the WPL Merlins is a friendly on September 22, when Glendale hosts Lindenwood at Infinity Park. The Merlins will then have a rematch against the San Diego Surfers, taking on the California side September 29 at Infinity Park. Follow all of the Glendale teams on Facebook and Twitter for full-time scores on all games and additional information. For the 2018 season, the WPL Merlins will be playing on the Infinity Park Stadium pitch, opening for the professional men’s team, the Glendale Raptors. The full season schedule can be found at glendalemerlins.com/rugby-schedule/.
If you are interested in joining the Glendale Women’s Rugby program, whether at the WPL or Division 1 level, contact the recruitment chair at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come out to one of the practices to see the team in action. The WPL squad practices Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Infinity Park turf pitch.
Player of the Match – Nichole Wanamaker