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Women’s Interhall: Weasels finish year undefeated

By Casey Karnes | Monday, November 25, 2013

No. 1 Pasquerilla West completed an undefeated championship season Sunday with a 19-13 victory over No. 2 Ryan on the frozen tundra at Notre Dame Stadium.

Despite temperatures in the 20s and snow covering the ground, Pasquerilla West (9-0) got off to a strong start. Senior quarterback Rachel Rogers led the Purple Weasels on several early incursions deep into Wildcats territory.

Pasquerilla West caused a turnover-on-downs on Ryan’s first possession, and then Rogers marched down the field before finding freshman receiver Danyelle Steichen in the end zone to give the Purple Weasels an early 6-0 lead. Senior offensive lineman Elaine Rousseau said Pasquerilla West’s good start gave the team confidence, but Ryan (7-1-1) never made things easy.

“Well, we started off really strong, and the offense made a couple good plays,” Rousseau said. “Ryan has a really tough offense, so they threw a couple bombs that tripped us up a little bit.”

The Wildcats’ offense almost responded their next drive behind freshman quarterback Kathleen Conaty, but the Purple Weasels’ defense stuffed Ryan at the goal line. Rogers then went back to work, bringing the Weasels back down the field and finding freshman receiver Monica Busse in the end zone for a touchdown.

Behind the strength of its two first-half touchdowns, Pasquerilla West took a 13-0 lead into halftime. On the other sideline, Ryan senior captains receiver Maddie Swan and offensive lineman Andrea Carlson, worked to keep their team’s spirits up, Wildcats sophomore running back Sarah Morris said.

“We have quite a few seniors on the team, and throughout the season they’ve always been not only teammates, but kind of mentors,” Morris said. “In this game, it was a continuation of the leadership they’ve shown all season.”

The Wildcats came out motivated in the second half, quickly closing the gap with Pasquerilla West on a touchdown pass from Conaty to sophomore receiver Erin Clark. Rogers and the Pasquerilla West offense attempted to answer, but Ryan sophomore defensive back Mary Kate McRoskey intercepted Rogers’ pass and returned it to Pasquerilla West’s 1-yard line. Two plays later, however, Conaty’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Purple Weasels’ sophomore defensive back Bernie Jordan. Jordan returned the interception to the other end zone, extending the Pasquerilla West lead to 19-6.

Toole said Jordan’s pick was the turning point in the championship.

“I told my girls, ‘This is it, second half of the game, we need to make a good stop here, we need to get it done,'” Toole said of the Weasels’ defensive stand. “Bernie Jordan, she was just in the right place, and she was fast, and she just went. I think that moment, that’s when we realized it was our game to win.”

Ryan was able to notch another touchdown on a pass from Conaty to Swan, but the Purple Weasels then ran out the clock to preserve the 19-13 victory. Despite the loss, the Wildcats expect to return to Notre Dame Stadium, Morris said.

“We’re really excited [about the future], especially with all of our young players,” Morris said. “[We have a] freshman quarterback, a lot of sophomores, so we’re really excited about that. I think we’re only going to get better.”

Across the field, Pasquerilla West focused on celebrating the culmination of its undefeated championship season.

“It’s incredible,” Toole said. “Freshman year, we went to the stadium and lost to Howard in a heartbreaker. So it’s just so amazing to be finally be here at the end of my senior year holding this trophy.”

Contact Casey Karnes at wkarnes@nd.edu.