Reigning Spring Champion Tulane one of four still alive in DII
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Four Women's Division II college programs took steps closer to a Spring Championship over the weekend, coming out undefeated from the Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matchups in Bellingham, Wash., Irvine, Calif., and Spartanburg, S.C.
Spring Champion a year ago, Tulane University booked a ticket to the 2017 USA Rugby Women's DII Spring Championship event - to be held at Stanford University April 22-23 - with two victories at Upward Star Center. The first-time host of a National Championship Series event welcomed eight teams in the DII bracket as well as four teams competing in the Men's Division 1AA Spring Playoffs.
Tulane kicked off the Southeast Regional weekend in South Carolina with a convincing defeat of Towson University in the Round of 16, scoring seven of nine total tries in a barn-burning first half. The Tigers kept it close early by matching the Green Wave's two tries in the first 15 minutes, but let the match slip away in a 55-27 result. University of South Carolina also eased into the Quarterfinals, keeping Eckerd College to two tries in a 58-10 victory.
Tulane lock Alexandra Clarke, one of 12 members of Sunday's starting XV that played in last year's Spring Championship Final, opened the Quarterfinal scoring before No. 8 Lily Wissinger followed her own try with a yellow card five minutes from the break. South Carolina pounced on the opportunity for a 10-7 score line. Not 10 minutes after Wissinger was released from the bin, Emma Scharf Peterson received a citation, with South Carolina promptly scoring again to take a 12-10 lead. Scrum half Gwendolyn Leifer, a center in the Championship game a year ago, dotted down for the match-winner at the end of her teammate's sin-bin session, and the Green Wave held on through a third yellow card to see out the 15-12 victory.
In the Northeast Regional bracket in South Carolina, Kennesaw State University broke the century mark in an impressive, 101-24, display against University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The Owls met Kansas State University, which beat 2014 DII National Champion University of Mary Washington in the Round of 16, in the Quarterfinal.
Wildcats No. 8 Chloe Weston - who dotted down seven times against Mary Washington - scored two needed tries in the first half as Kennesaw State kept the match close at 15-14 through 40 minutes. She finished off a hat trick to extend the lead eight minutes into the second half, but three replies by the Owls in a 12-minute span nullified her fourth try of the match in the dying minutes. Kennesaw State emerged victorious, 33-30.
Out west, West North Regional host University of Western Washington was on the losing end of its first playoff match against Grand Canyon University. The Antelopes conceded just a single try during an early yellow card disadvantage and pulled away from the Vikings in the second half to win, 29-5. Fresno State University kept the other contender from the Evergreen State, Eastern Washington University, from advancing thanks to a six-try, first-half outburst.
Fresno State continued the try-scoring streak from the 62-10 win through the first 15 minutes of the Quarterfinal against Grand Canyon. The Bulldogs extended their four-point halftime lead to 19-10 before the Antelopes rattled off three unanswered tries to take a 29-21 lead midway through the second frame. Fresno State lost scrum half Moriah Halteman in the build-up to its fourth try at 29-28, and could not regain the lead before a 79th-minute score by Grand Canyon finalized the result at 36-28.
In a one-off knockout match at University of California, Irvine, the home-town Anteaters rode a four-try first half to a 30-17 defeat of Santa Clara University to advance to the Spring Championship Semifinals. The West South Regional victors are matched up with Kennesaw State, while Grand Canyon is set to battle Tulane at Stanford University.
The Spring Championship event in California will kick off Saturday, April 22. Fall Champion and reigning DII National Champion Davenport University will await the undefeated team on the weekend at the May 5-6 College 15s National Championships at Life University in Marietta, Ga.
Women's Division II Spring Playoff Results
South East Regional
Kennesaw State 101-24 UNC Charlotte
Kansas State 66-17 Mary Washington
Kennesaw State 33-30 Kansas State
North East Regional
Towson 27-55 Tulane
South Carolina 58-10 Eckerd
South Carolina 12-15 Tulane
West North Regional
Fresno State 62-10 Eastern Washington
Western Washington 5-29 Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon 36-28 Fresno State
West South Regional
UC Irvine 30-17 Santa Clara