Division II Fall Championship Regionals kick off Saturday
BOULDER, Colo. - Sixteen collegiate rugby programs traveled to three sites around the country for this weekend's regional Rounds of 16 and Quarterfinals of the 2015 USA Rugby Women's Division II College Fall Championships.
Vassar College Farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., will host both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regionals, while Founders Field in Pittsburgh and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs will each welcome four teams over two competition days.
Following the initial Round of 16 matchups Saturday, Nov. 21, winning teams will move on to the Quarterfinals for a chance to advance to the Semifinals at Furman University. The Fall Championship weekend in Greenville, S.C., is scheduled for Dec. 5-6.
Mid-Atlantic Regional - Vassar College Farm, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Apart from host Vassar, Ithaca is the only school amongst the two regionals in Poughkeepsie located in the Empire State. The undefeated Avengers won their conference for the second consecutive season - handily - and only second-place Geneseo could keep a margin of defeat below 16 points prior to Ithaca's 24-19 play-in win against Albany.
Saint Michael's had an undefeated season of its own in Rugby Northeast play, winning five matches with a combined score line of 361-55. In fact, only Providence could score more than 12 points against the Purple Knights, and that was back in September. Since then, Saint Michael's has posted three shutouts and an impressive play-in victory against New England Wide second seed Smith College.
On the other side of the Mid-Atlantic Regional, Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference Champion Bloomsburg will like its chances at reaching the regional's Quarterfinal. Following six less-than-competitive matches against opponents in the Pennsylvania Division of MARC, the Huskies handled the top two teams from the Tri-State Division - Delaware and Kutztown - to win the conference title and beat Grand Valley State, 78-5, in the play-in match.
"Our younger girls made [the play-in] a special game for the seniors by making our last home game a senior day," Bloomsburg captain Kelly Mason said. "They not only stepped up on the field, but also off the field."
Ken Pape rested his Rutgers A-side in the Tri-State Conference Championship match against Vassar to get his B-side and reserve players play time they may have missed during the 4-1 regular season. Only Hofstra was able to send the Scarlet Knights home with an 'L,' and Pape will have his side primed to avoid another against Bloomsburg.
Mid-West Regional - Founders Field, Pittsburgh
Each of the four teams competing in the Mid-West Regional are more than deserving of their place in the Fall Championship Round of 16, though Indiana University of Pennsylvania was the only team to allow its play-in opponent a sniff of the playoffs. The Scooters' only defeat came at the onset of the season at the hands of West Virginia, so they will be looking to prove their mettle against Cincinnati Saturday.
Another one-loss team, Ohio Conference Champion Cincinnati could very well meet conference runner-up Eastern Kentucky in the Regional Quarterfinal should the Bearcats and Colonels win their respective Round of 16 matchups. Cincinnati's only loss of the season was a three-point defeat to Eastern Kentucky the first weekend of October, and a Championship Final defeat of the Colonels will give the Bearcats confidence against IUP.
As disappointing as a runner-up position is, Eastern Kentucky can take solace in knowing that a potential third matchup with Cincinnati - with a Fall Championship Semifinal place on the line - is on the horizon. Against Davenport, however, the Colonels will have their work cut out for them.
The Panthers do not know what defeat tastes like, even besting Division I Elite program Indiana in September and 2014 DII National Champion Notre Dame College a month ago. With All-Americans like Ashlee Byrge and Danielle Ordway, Davenport is attempting to prove its Division I worth with a successful Fall Championship campaign.
The Quarterfinal victors from the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic Regionals will meet in one of the Fall Championship Semifinals at Furman University.
Northeast Regional - Vassar College Farm, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Home-field advantage has treated Vassar well so far this season, though the Brewers only played three matches away from Vassar College Farm. To be fair, Vassar's only defeat was against a club side in Poughkeepsie, but the Brewers will be eyeing a Quarterfinal spot in front of their own fans.
Coast Guard won all of its matches save for a draw with Vermont, but struggled to score more than 20 points per game in the heart of its schedule. Against high-scoring Vassar, which averaged 65 points per match prior to a 50-12 defeat of Delaware in the play-in round, it will have to up its game on defense. The Cadets did score 58 points against Tufts in its own play-in match, so Coast Guard Head Coach BMC William Anderson may have his side in prime position to upset the host.
Losing out on a conference championship can be tough to take as an undefeated team, but it must be especially so for Kutztown, which gave up just 30 points in seven matches ahead of the 76-8 defeat to Bloomsburg in the MARC Final. Last season, Kutztown reached the Fall Semifinal, where it lost to eventual National Champion Notre Dame College. Redemption is on the line against Bowdoin, which won the New England Small College Rugby Conference without much difficulty. The Polar Bears also pushed aside local rival Maine in the play-in round, and head into the Round of 16 match against Kutztown with momentum in tow.
Rockies Regional - U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado Mesa will defer to Air Force as the home team on the weekend, but the Mavericks will have the advantage of rest in their Round of 16 matchup with Winona State after receiving a bye to the Rockies Regional. They may rue the bye, however, as the team was on a roll through the regular season before a defeat to Montana State in the Rocky Mountain Conference Championship.
Winona State had its final match of the regular season against Minnesota-Mankato cancelled, but was able to keep up its points-scoring pace against Illinois-Chicago in a 114-5 play-in win. Colorado Mesa will have to be on the lookout for the Black Katts since they reached the Fall Championship Final in 2014 and seem to be in similar form.
Minnesota-Mankato had an off-and-on season, losing to Winona and Winona State, but is coming off of a heavy win in the play-in match against Stevens Point. As the second-place team in the Northern Lights Conference, Mankato will have its work cut out against Montana State.
Montana State also had a bye to the Round of 16, but needed the rest following a long Rocky Mountain season. Colorado Mesa felt the wrath of the Bobcats at the end of the season to the tune of a 49-12 defeat, and the team from Montana will surely be hoping to make a better case for itself than it did at the 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships, where it lost all five of its matches.
The Quarterfinal victors from the Northeast and Rockies Regional will meet in one of the Fall Championship Semifinals at Furman University. The Championship weekend in Greenville, also featuring the Women's Division I Fall Championship Final and Men's Division II National Championship Semifinals and Final, will be streamed live on USA Rugby TV.