HOUSTON, TX — The Cougars finished their 2022 season in an unseemly one-sided game, beating Virginia Tech team 80-7 on Saturday April 30 in the Spring D1 College National Championship match at Aveva Stadium in Houston, Texas.
BYU scored 12 tries, 2 each to center Delaney Rakuita and live commentators' favorite prop Kambria Hartrick. BYU played as a team which was visible on the scoreboard stats when multiple players, such as MA Sorensen Nominee No. 8 Lewanda Aspinall, A J Francis, Talosia Morrissette, Nicole Dimond, Heather Thomas, Captain Matalasi Morrissette, Makayla Komer & Kate Rugg all crossing the line for BYU. Kate Rugg's power run, staying low in contact from a pick and drive, for BYU in the 79th minute, for the try brought up 78 points for the Cougars. Fullback Nicole Dimond, who has been outstanding all year in the kicking and conversion game, slotted 10 out of 12 conversions and scored a try of her own for 25 points.
The Hokies’ appearance in the title game came after wins in the regular season against Virginia Military Institute, James Madison, Emory and Henry University, North Carolina and North Carolina State. Virginia Tech beat Central Florida in the national quarterfinal but lost to the University of Virginia in the semifinals. Virginia Tech was runner up in that semifinal or east regional final, but could not pass up the opportunity to play in the final when University of Virginia declined the invitation to the title game. In Virginia's absence, Virginia Tech made the trip to Aveva Stadium in Houston, Texas to take on the Cougars of Provo, Utah.
In comparison to BYU, BYU's players have had more college rugby game appearances this season, which is 17 games, approximately 2-times more than most of the Colleges in competition. BYU picked up multiple games in the fall and competed in the Pacific Desert Rugby Conference in the winter and spring season.
BYU started right from the beginning of game, when No. 8 Lewanda Aspinall received an off load from Captain Matalasi Morrissette in the first minute, and dived over underneath the posts to score the Cougars' first of the twelve tries. Nicole Dimond converted to make it 7-0 with just 1 minute 25 seconds on the clock. BYU went to work and put up 56 points to 0 in the first half.
Even Virginia Tech’s Hokies ebullient supporters, among the most ardent in the College sports, who colored Aveva Stadium in their College’s maroon and orange colors, sometimes were silenced by the brutality of the scoreline.
“We have worn them (BYU) out - they are tired now.” said Virginia Tech coach Gareth Thompson before the beginning of the 2nd half. “We have to tackle low - BYU's got some strong runners, and we've got the wind and we can play away from our own half.”
But the Cougars had different ideas in the second half. The Cougars always knew that would be playing up to a good Virginia Tech side, who they beat 3 years ago enroute to 2019 D1 National Championship.
Virginia Tech was brave when they attacked and put multiple phases on the Cougars 5-meter line close to the end of the first half. They made some punishing tackles, coupled by some good carries and never stopped trying.
But for the Cougars, the motto "believe and endure" has been the hallmark of this program all year. Coach Waqa challenged his team to keep on playing 100% and stay humble, while keeping the basics and cutting down on some ill-discipline that cost them a yellow card (10 minutes in the sin-bin) towards the end of the first half.
It took the Cougars only 5 minute, 10 seconds to score their first second half try through substitute Makayla Komer.
Virginia Tech's moment came in the 55th minute mark when wing Kate Santos ran back an intercept for a try. Kate Hendren converted for the seven points, but otherwise, it was all BYU.
The Cougars scored two more tries after that - with hard working hook, Kate Rugg sealing the deal with a try in the 79th minute mark. Dimond converted to end the game at 80-7, BYU victory. BYU farewelled seven seniors in Matalasi Morrissette, Delaney Rakuita, Mariann Higgins, Riho Maruyama, Berlynn Hall, Aubrie Robinette & Nicole Dimond who played their last games this Winter-Spring 2022 season.
Prop Kambria Hartrick was named "Player of the Match", a title given to her by The Rugby Network TV commentators, whereas the Most Valuable Player award was given to lock Annaliese Curtis for her body of work in this game, and all season long.
“I just wanted to say thank you to Virginia Tech for all the hardships they’ve been through,” Coach Tom Waqa said. “They've got some fantastic players, and they didn't quit. I'm really impressed with them. Thank Virginia Tech for coming out and enjoying the game of rugby.”