College Spring Championships are Primed for Big Games

It's going to be a fun week of rugby for the colleges all over the U.S.

This weekend, the spring college championship series continues and it is shaping up to be a weekend filled to the brim with exciting matchups. The championships will take place over the course of two days in four different locations. The Men's D1AA Spring Championship game will take place in East Carolina, where both the Women's D1 Elite, D1 and D2 round of sixteen and quarterfinals will be played. Stanford, Life University and BYU will all host various arms the Women's D1 Elite, D1 and D2 brackets as well. 

Men's D1AA Spring Championship Match, Dartmouth vs. Nevada: 
Two powerhouses of D1AA rugby face off this weekend, as they try to secure the 2018 Spring Championship title and book a place in the National Championship against Mary Washington. Both teams secured their spots in this weekend's championship game two weeks ago when they won through the quarterfinals and the semis. The two teams took very separates approaches to making their way into the big game. For Dartmouth they were able to stave off an early challenge Missouri and put them away 37-10, and then disposed of Central Florida in an emphatic fashion 83-0. They will be taking a large chunk of confidence away from winning such an important game so handedly. 

Nevada, on the other hand, had to fight tooth and nail to get themselves across the line in both games with their wins against Western Washington and Long Beach State coming by six and three points, respectively. While their wins may not jump off the page in the same way that Dartmouth's do, Nevada came up against stiff opposition and showed great resiliancy to pull away from both encounters victorious. Nevada will be hoping that they are able to make the game as scrappy as possible, and suffocate Dartmouth's attack. If they can do this successfully, then they should have no problem at all claiming the title. 

Women's D1 Elite and D1: 
The top two divisions of women's collegiate rugby, have been combined in the playoffs to allow for teams in D1 to test their metal against those in the Elite level. This will produce plenty of enticing matchups this weekend, and as we look ahead to the national championships. One of the most interesting matchups in the first round of the games this weekend will come from UC Santa Barbra (UCSB) taking on Chico State. 

Chico State enjoys playing  a quick paced, and expansive game, which is coincidently is exactly how UCSB looks to play their game too. According to Chico State's coach, Mary Triantafyllou, they distribute evenly throughout their fifteen, "I would describe our style of play as dynamic.  We try to balance our attack between both the forwards and the backs." For Zac White, UCSB's head coach they play with a lot of passion, "We play fast and furious with a lot of heart." If both teams stay true to their coaches, it will be an fun fan for the neutral to watch with tries come fast and often. 

These two teams know that first round matchups don't come much tougher than this. Each coach was highly complementary of the other team and knew that they would have their work cut out for them. Triantafyllou, brought up a preseason encounter that these two shared which, ultimately went the way of Chico State, but it came down to the final whistle. "We played them in a preseason tournament in Long Beach and it was a 2 point game, so we expect it to be close." White was admitted that they were in for a tough match, stating that "They're number one for a reason." 

This game is about as evenly matched as a first round playoff game gets, and both teams will be looking to protect the ball and limit their mistakes, as ultimately this game could come down to something as minor as which team made the fewest mistakes. 

Chico State UCSB will be the perfect game to set up the Women's D1 Elite/D1 Bracket. 

Women's D2 Tulane vs. John Brown:
Two of the top teams in D2 women's college rugby go toe to toe this weekend to try and advance through to the semi-finals, on May 4th. John Brown comes out of the Mid-America conference where they ran through their competition with the only hiccup on their record coming from a draw against Kansas State. Tulane on the other hand have been the gold standard for the past couple of years. In 2016 they were the Spring Champions, and last year they fell just short of repeating as champions. They will be looking to get back to that stage once again this year. 

For John Brown they are a team that takes a holistic approach to the game, their head coach Jarrod Heathcote explains "I would say that we are a well-rounded team that utilizes both our forwards and backline to attack. We like a quick ball out of the ruck and try to get it out to the line. However, we are also are not afraid of crashing with the forwards. We are opportunistic. We are a scrappy team." Tulane is not as holistic as John Brown, but they play to their strengths and do it incredibly well. Head coach Jessica Mallindine explaining, "Given the average size of the team is on the smaller side of things, the team focuses on technical execution, support, and structure to be successful."

Both coaches are expecting a close and well fought game, Mallindine adding, "Tulane fully expects a challenge from John Brown. It may be one of the first times this season that Tulane will have encountered a team seemingly similar to themselves in size, speed, and structure so it will be interesting to see how they adapt and handle it." Where Heathcote was excited for the challenges that came with this match up "A great game and a different game from what we are used to playing. Many of the teams we play don't utilize their lines very much and tend to crash the ball and keep it with the forwards. I think that Tulane will challenge us more on the line. I think this is where we will be challenged the most. I am really excited to play new teams that we have never encountered before and they are good teams as well."

The complete bracket for this weekend can be seen below: 

Women's D1 Elite/D1
Sarah Shipman

Women's D2
Sarah Shipman