Seattle, Wisconsin to defend Club titles after advancing from Women’s Playoffs

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The Seattle Saracens and Wisconsin Rugby will return to Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., to defend their respectful USA Rugby Club National Championship titles. The Saracens navigated through an improved western DI Playoff field, while Chicago North Shore will make its first Finals appearance since 2014 after fending off the competition in the eastern bracket. In DII, Wisconsin will take on Life West after the Gladiatrix easily outlasted the western DII bracket in Arizona.

Playing on a rain-soaked pitch at Founders Field in Pittsburgh, the women of North Shore ousted 2015 finalists Beantown, 29-8, in Saturday's Quarterfinal to set up a Semifinal versus Raleigh Venom. A day after holding Boston Rugby to just five points, Raleigh made things difficult on Chicago and built a meager, 10-7, advantage.

As the game trudged on through the mud, North Shore began to find seams within the Venom defense and used them to send front-rowers Charli Jacoby and Nobuko Takaki over for tries to help secure a 24-15 win.

Twelve months after beating Denver Black Ice in the Quarterfinals and Santa Monica in the Semifinals, Seattle earned Club Playoff victories against the same two sides at Tucson, Ariz.,'s Kino Sports Complex. Santa Monica looked forward to playing the Saracens with fresh legs after struggling to keep up with the eventual Champions in 2015's Day 2 Semifinal. The Dolphins did indeed show improvement from their 47-0 blanking by Seattle last year, but were still a few steps behind a Saracens side that raced past them, 37-17.

A hat trick by Kate Hill led Black Ice to a 34-15 Quarterfinal win over a stubborn Austin Valkyries squad. Advancement placed Black Ice right where it wanted to be - toe-to-toe with a Seattle team that ended its season last year. Unfortunately for Denver, its determined effort was not enough against the Saracens. The reigning National Champions made four first-half trips to the try zone, and eventually returned to the Pacific Northwest with a 32-14 victory.

Wisconsin punched a return ticket to Denver via two Club Playoff wins in Pittsburgh. First, the best out of the Midwest scored the first 26 points in its Quarterfinal fixture against Charlotte Rugby. The South champs scored through Elizabeth Ravaioli and Crystal Sain before half, but could not continue the momentum. Wisconsin's back three of Felicia Carlson, Sybil Levine, and Justine Wypych were especially impressive, combining for six tries in the 67-17 rout.

Harrisburg was forced to work much harder in its Quarterfinal. In a match that saw four lead changes, Harrisburg needed a 73rd-minute try by winger Emily McHenry to turn back Burlington Rugby, 18-15. In Sunday's Semifinal, Harrisburg did well to stay within striking distance of Wisconsin, but the reigning National Champion eventually pulled away by scoring three tries in the final 30 minutes of the match. In the end, it was Wisconsin emerging from the mud victorious, 31-17.

Life West's dominant conference season form continued into the postseason. After posting a 50-12 halftime score against Ventura County, the Gladiatrix cruised to a 62-29 triumph over the Lady Outlaws. Houston Athletic appeared equipped to give Life West a true test after having its way with Kansas City Jazz, 44-26. Unfortunately for a Houston side that only traveled with 21 players, there was not enough gas left in its tank, and the Gladiatrix bullied its way to a 97-8 win and a spot in its very first National Championship Final.

The Women's DI and DII National Championships will be contested on the first day of the June 4-5 USA Rugby Club Championships. Wisconsin will seek its second DII title in as many seasons against second-year club Life West at 3 p.m. MT Saturday. DI winner in 2014, Chicago North Shore, and 2015 champs Seattle Saracens will kick off at 5 p.m. MT.