Division I kicks off College 15s as UC Davis returns to Spring Championship

MARIETTA, Ga. - University of Cailfornia, Davis, is still in the running to maintain its Women's Division I Spring Championship title at Life University Saturday, May 6, as the Aggies upended University of Central Florida, 36-24, in Friday's Semifinal. Notre Dame College, DII National Champion in 2015, beat Stanford University, 29-17, in the earlier Semifinal Friday at the 2017 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships.

Eighteen tries were scored between the two Semifinals at Lupo Family Field to kick off the first day in Marietta. The Aggies and Falcons will play for the Spring Championship trophy Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, with the live broadcast available on The Rugby Channel.

The Championship weekend in Georgia kicked off with a 100-minute thriller between the Falcons of Notre Dame College and Stanford, with the latter holding a 5-0 lead through the first 40 minutes of play thanks to an early Haley O'Brien score. As the sky dropped rain, the teams took time to find footing, and Notre Dame College shored up its discipline to take a 10-5 advantage six minutes into the second frame.

Cardinal inside center Madeline Wilson dummied past the defense in the 53rd minute to score under the posts for a 12-10 game following the conversion. All-American scrum half Danielle Walko-Siua nearly regained the lead a few minutes later with a lateral run from the 22 only to lose the ball forward ahead of the try line, but crossed over, anyway, in the 70th minute for a 17-12 score line.

A late score - two minutes from time with Falcon Karmin Macedo in the bin - by Kaelyn Varner went unconverted to send the teams into the extra playing period at 17-17, and the scoreboard remained level after an initial 10 minutes. Marcaya Bailous finally broke through for Notre Dame College as players expended what energy they had left, and Leslie Velez capped the match with a try in the 98th minute for the 29-17 final.

Having kept 2016 Spring Championship runner-up University of Virginia from the Spring Championships, Central Florida pounced on the reigning Spring Champion early in the second Semifinal at Lupo Family Field. The size to which Head Coach Raoul Besse spoke in the build-up week proved useful to set up center Cortney Kuehl's third-minute score.

Kuehl doubled her tally before the 20th minute, when the Aggies found themselves on the board through Rebecca Lehman's try. Last year's Most Valuable Player, Erica Hipp, had her 12-10 try erased in mere minutes as Sara Karuli and then Jaqueline Edge put the Knights ahead, 24-12, at the break.

As they did in last year's Final, the Aggies put on their hard hats and went to work in the second half, keeping Central Florida from the try zone. Prop Brenda Erickson drew Davis within a try in the 57th minute before Lehmann pushed her scoring tally in the game to 16 points with a self-converted try, 26-24, a minute following a yellow card to Central Florida flanker Rachel Mederos. The Knights did themselves in moments after Mederos returned to the field as prop Julia Phillips was shown red for an illegal tackle. The space allowed Davis to run in two additional tries for a 36-24 final score and a berth in the Spring Championship Final.