Milwaukee, WI–For the second year in a row, Hamilton led the national champion DSHA rugby team for almost the entire game, and once again, they let the lead slip away in the game’s final minutes. Last year it was a 22-17 loss in the state semi-finals. This year, the 36-26 loss ended Hamilton’s first chance at an undefeated state championship season in 15s rugby.
While the Chargers are still learning how to compete in big games, DSHA had previously won 17 state championships, 17 Midwest Championships and nine national championships. Because of their history, many saw the Dashers as the likely favorites to win, but they found themselves struggling to keep up with the speed of Hamilton for most of the championship game.
Hamilton opened the scoring with a breakaway by senior Grace Strelow who played most of the game with a broken hand and nose sustained during the championship match. DSHA tied the game before junior Paige Smolik got a breakawy of her own. She was pulled down with a high tackle, earning the Chargers a penalty try and the Dashers a yellow card. Once DSHA was back at even strength, they we able to add a try at the end of the half, but missed their conversion. Hamilton went into the half with a tenuous14-12 lead.
That lead became a deficit when the Dashers returned the second half kickoff, but it didn’t last long as DSHA put a pass on the ground and senior Rachel Rank was able to kick the ball down the field and to jump on it for a try after it crossed the goal line. With ten minutes remaining, Hamilton led 21-19.
Unfortunately for Hamilton fans, DSHA exploited a gap in Hamilton’s line and stole a defensive ruck to add a pair of tries in a five-minute span that would prove to be devistating.
Senior Camille Torres was able to run around the corner for a try that made it a one-score game at 31-26. Hamilton recieved the kickoff for the last play of the game, but had the ball stripped from them and returned for a try, ending any hope for a comeback.
Hamilton’s second place finish is their best in team history. They previously finished 3rd in 2021 and 2018. They are currently the reigning state champions in both D1 and D2 7s rugby, which they will look to defend this spring. Hamilton may get a chance at redemption against DSHA in 15s rugby when they both head to the national tournament in May 2023.
You can view the contest here. Highlights are linked in the description.