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Detroit Women Surprise Post-Promotion

Wednesday Sep 16, 2009 in Women Clubs

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When the Women’s Premier League (WPL) launched, a lot of restructuring in the women’s game followed.

Division II teams were asked to bump up, DI teams’ area of competition expanded (e.g., Boston now plays Atlanta in the regular season), and everyone expect growing pains. For the Detroit women’s club, the new league couldn’t have come at a better time, and it opened its inaugural DI season with a 16-7 win over Chicago.

Detroit coach Ken Mance joined the team last year in hopes of elevating the then-DII program to DI over the next three to four years. But once the WPL removed the top two DI teams (Minnesota Valkyries and Twin Cities Amazons) from the league, the promotion came sooner than expected.


“When the invitation to DI came through, and I proposed it to the team,” Mance said, “it was a unanimous ‘YES!’” Detroit had won the DII National Championship three times in its history and was 2008 runner-up to Orlando, which also moved up to DI.


“We moved up because there isn’t as much national recognition at the DII level as there should be,” Mance continued, “and we wanted to prove ourselves.”


Heading into the break against Chicago last Saturday, Detroit was up 3-0 on an Erin McGowan penalty. “Our style of play is very quick,” Mance said, “and in the second half, we were running better and able to get the ball out wide to our wings, who opened up some gaps.”


Scrumhalf Sarah Kuchenreucher put Detroit up 8-0 and then helped set up captain Shaunna Day for the second try of the match, 13-0. McGowan tacked on another penalty to lead 16-0. Mance made sure to tip his hat to lock Sherrie Ingham, who supported all over the field and led well in the pack.


On the last play of the game, Chicago prevented the shutout with a try from Jessica Travers, a University of Illinois recruit, and a Michelle Rich conversion, 16-7.


“Detroit played really well,” Chicago coach Lisa Gartner reflected on the upset. “They were able to keep the pressure on defensively and take advantage of the opportunities that we unfortunately gave them.”


What went wrong for the seasoned DI team? “Our team has incredible potential,” Gartner continued. “It may be that in trying new things and working in different people, the players were not able to execute and connect as well as we know they can. This week at practice will be more physical and less gabbing.”


Detroit prepares for Chicago North Shore, which defeated the fourth Midwest DI team, Wisconsin, 46-14 last week. The top two teams qualify for playoffs, and Detroit expects to be there. “It’s why we’re here,” Mance said. “We set high expectations for ourselves.”


Detroit - 16

Tries: Kuchenreucher, Day

Penalties: McGowan (2)


Chicago - 7

Tries: Travers

Conversions: Rich

- Jackie Finlan
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