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Bonnies upend top-ranked Endicott to advance to Sunday’s national rugby title game in Houston

Dec 02, 2023

In a remarkable display of brute force and sheer guts, St. Bonaventure defeated defending national champion Endicott, 22-10, Saturday in Houston to reach the small-college national title game of the 2023 Fall 15s Collegiate Rugby Championship.

The Bonnies (11-0), ranked No. 2 in the latest NCR small-college poll, held top-ranked Endicott (9-1) to 45 points below their season scoring average.

“I knew they had this in them,” said second-year Coach Meredith Pyke. “I wasn’t sure how they’d react to the lack of experience on a national stage, but they were great.”

The Bonnies will face Wisconsin-Platteville at 1 p.m. EST Sunday in the title game. Platteville defeated SUNY-Cortland, 31-5, in the other semifinal. The game is scheduled to be streamed on The Rugby Network.

Junior Jaylei Wagstaff set the physical tone with some teeth-rattling tackles and a number of bruising, big yardage carries, often leaving multiple tacklers in her wake. Even after suffering what first appeared to be a serious knee injury early in the second half, Wagstaff gutted it out and finished the game.

“Jaylei is a force to be reckoned with,” Pyke said. “We were definitely the more physical team, at least for the first 60 minutes, and she was a big reason.”

The Bonnies offset Endicott’s speed advantage with a punishing, ball-control attack in the middle of the field. Freshman Katie Paterson and senior Abbey Beres scored tries in the first half to stake the Bonnies to a 12-0 lead they’d never relinquish.

On a pair of breakouts by Endicott, freshman fullback Natalie Lamar made great open-field tackles with only the try line behind her to secure the 12-5 halftime lead.

Even when Endicott All-American Tess Merrill scored early in the second half to cut the lead to 12-10, Pyke said the team never lost its confidence.

“We were not going to be intimidated,” Pyke said. “Even when it got close, they kept talking positive.”

Despite turning the ball over twice on the brink of scoring, the Bonnies bowed their necks and sophomore Kyla Nentarz forced a turnover deep in Endicott territory. Moments later, SBU All-American Makenna Ramsey dove across the try line to extend the lead to 17-10.

Disgusted that she missed the ensuing conversion from point-blank range, Nentarz took out her frustration a few minutes later when she took a deft pass from junior Ashlee Reid on the right wing, made one sharp inside cut, and bulldozed Merrill at the try line to give SBU a 22-10 lead with 15 minutes left.

For the most part, Endicott did a good job of containing Ramsey, who was averaging four tries a game on the season. That only affirmed what Pyke has been trying to tell people — that the Bonnies are more than a one-player team.

“This was a true team win,” Pyke said. “Makenna does great things for us but we never build our game plan just around her. I think people saw that today.”


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. Out of 167 regional universities in the North, St. Bonaventure was ranked #6 for value and #14 for innovation by U.S. News and World Report (2024).