Team ready to take battlefield

The premier team in NCAA Division-I women’s rugby will look to continue their perfect season and run their record to 7-0 when they face the Northern Iowa Panthers on Sunday.

Eastern is riding high on momentum and will welcome the Northern Iowa Panthers to Lakeside Field in what will be a very physical game.

The two Panther teams have two very different styles of play.

Tina Crema, a senior flyhalf, said the Panthers have been working on their offense and defense.

“We are confident going into the game, but we will be working against their teams strong, fast and very athletic style of play,” senior flyhalf Tina Crema said.

Head coach Frank Graziano will have his team working on the physical aspect of the game to counter Northern Iowa’s strengths.

“This has traditionally been our toughest game,” Graziano said. “We don’t match up very well with them since they play a style we aren’t very good at defensively. They are much bigger than we are.”

Eastern will look to use their speed to wear down Northern Iowa and put some points on the board.

Eastern got the best of Northern Iowa in last year’s match-up by a score of 34-0, but Graziano does not see this being an easy game this time around.

In 2009, the battle of the Panthers was not decided until the final play of the game. Eastern capitalized on a last second scoring opportunity and walked away with a 22-20 win.

“This game tends to be very competitive when you have two contrasting styles,” Graziano said. “This game could come down to whoever has the ball last.”

Graziano said it is his job to make sure the team is getting better.

“This squad has enormous potential and each week I try to make them better,” Graziano said.

He said his team will certainly be tested this weekend.

“What we’ve been doing has been successful so far, but I have a feeling we will be tested a lot this weekend,” Graziano said. “To get the win, the Panthers must tackle well and defend up to their potential, as well as come out with energy to avoid falling behind from the start.”

Graziano said the size difference in players will also be a factor in the game.

“We will struggle with their much larger girls, and our 150 pound girls will have to tackle their 200 pound girls,” he said.

The battle of the Panthers is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Lakeside Field.

Jordan Pottorff can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].