Teams Advance Through to Fall College Championship Weekend

After the first weekend of fall Playoffs, semifinals and championship pairings have been set.

Over the weekend teams in four different divisions took the pitch across the country all with the same goal in mind, to be playing in Charlotte during the first weekend of December. The four levels of competition saw varying levels of equity across them; but the stage has been set for a riveting championship weekend on December 1-2.

 


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Men's D1AA:

The top level of men's play in the Fall Championship Series, saw one of the most exciting weekends of competition, with a point semifinal upset headlining the competition. On Saturday there were two upsets, as 5th seed Bowling Green took down 4th seed Kentucky, 31-25; and their fellow Mid-American Conference representatives, 6th seed Western Michigan beat 3rd seed Lindenwood-Belleville, 24-10. Meanwhile top seeds Mary Washington and St. Joseph's both advanced to Sunday's semifinals without much of a hassle. Mary Washington coasting by West Chester, 71-14 and St. Joseph's in similar fashion moving passed Salisbury, 53-17.

On Sunday both games were settled by five or less points. The Hawks were the first to advance through to the Fall Championship game after they staved off a Western Michigan comeback. The Hawks had scored the first fifteen points of the match in the first fifteen minutes, but Western Michigan were able to rally and bring the game to within five with over 25 minutes remaining. However, they were not able to add to their tally and the Hawks advanced to the final for the second consecutive year. On the other side of the bracket, Bowling Green had a tall order in front of them matching up with last year's National Champion, Mary Washington. Early on it did not look good for the Ohio men, as fell behind 14-0; but an interception from Peter Weiss brought Bowling Green back into the match. Bowling Green would then go on a 14-3 run to lead 19-17 just before the half. However, on the stroke of 40 minutes Mary Washington pounced and reclaimed the lead, 22-19. The two teams traded tries in the second half, with Bowling Green drawing first blood. The scoreline blew out to 40-32 in Bowling Green's favor, but a late penalty try to Mary Washington drew the game to within one point. Neither team could muster any further scoring and the match ended, 40-39, with Bowling Green advancing through. Bowling Green will now face St. Joseph's on Sunday December 2 to face off for the Fall D1AA Championship.

Women's D1:

Last year's champions, Davenport advanced through to the title game once again, after a successful weekend at Vassar College. They will be joined by 2016 Fall Champion and 2018 College 7s National Champions, Air Force after they edged out Minnesota in their semifinal. Heading into the weekend, Davenport was the favorite to go through. However, it was not expected to be an easy path through. With three former fall D1 champions in the bracket the competition was expected to be wide open, and it proved to be.

Davenport and UConn (2015 Fall Champions) both advanced through on Saturday with little to no problem. Davenport was able to build from an early 15-point lead against Northeastern to end up on top 43-12. UConn, similarly, established a 15-point lead that eventually culminated into a 35-10 victory over Michigan State. On the other side of the bracket the quarterfinals were of a similar ilk. Minnesota advanced through to the semifinals off the back of a 43-12 win over last year's runner-up, Notre Dame; and Air Force proved to classy for Sam Houston State with an emphatic 76-5 victory. The stage was now set for two evenly matched semifinals.

In Davenport and UConn's semifinal, the first half was a tooth and nail affair with only ten points scored in the first 40. All of those points went to Davenport. In the second stanza the scoring picked up. Davenport got on the board first to establish a 15-point lead. UConn had to score next to stay in the game and they did just that, to bring the margin back within 10. The two sides again traded tries before scrumhalf Olivia Ortiz scored 9 points (two conversions and a try) in three minutes to break the game open for Davenport. The Panthers holding on for a hard earned 34-10 victory. In the second semifinal, Air Force came out on top 37-20, thanks in large part to open-side flanker Adrienne Yoder who scored a hat trick on the day. They will now play Davenport on December 2, for the fall title.

Men's D2:

With three of last year's semifinalists making their way back into this year's playoff, chances are it was going to be tough to see new faces advance through to the second weekend of the Fall series. However, only last year's champions, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater were able to make it through.

Saturday was a wild day, with eight games taking place there was plenty of action across the competition. Games ranged from blowouts including North Carolina State seeing off SUNY Geneseo, 76-24; Whitewater getting rid of Montana State, 54-26; and UNC Charlotte moving by William Paterson, 57-17. Bethel College was able to put in a strong performance against Milwaukee, 37-17. North Dakota State, last year's 4th placed finisher was knocked off comprehensively by new comers Iowa Central Community College, 42-17. They were then followed by Norwich who fell to fellow new comers Queens University, 29-26. Two of the most entertaining games of the day were Villanova winning, narrowly, in a high scoring affair, 47-43, over Marquette; and Vermont squeezing by Virginia, 41-39. The stage was now set for a tense set of quarterfinals on Sunday.

After the displays that each team put on during their Round of 16 performances, the expectation was set for a series of high scoring tightly fought quarterfinals. This wasn't the case. Only one out of the four lived up to the expectations; where Queens beat Villanova, 39-34. In the other three quarterfinals, it was all one way traffic. Iowa Central beat Vermont in a relatively low scoring affair, 25-7. North Carolina State beat UNC Charlotte, 37-14, and will now hope for some home state support on December 1-2 when they play in Charlotte. Whitewater sealed their place in semifinals with a masterful, 72-6, display over Bethel College.

  

Women's D2:

All four of the women's D2 semifinalists from 2017 returned to the playoffs this year, and all four of them will be returning once again in 2018. Cincinnati will play Winona State, and Vassar will take on the Coast Guard in the semifinals. The teams and the matchups have stayed the same and time will tell if the results will remain the same too.

Saturday saw its fair share of lop sided fixtures. The closest match played in the Round of 16 was Bryant's, 40-12, win over Kutztown. In the other fixtures Cincinnati took care of Illinois State, 48-5; Vassar was too strong for Maine, 46-12; Indiana University of Pennsylvania blew by Bowling Green State, 61-15; last year's champion Winona State looked capable of reaching those heights once again, as they took down Colorado School of Mines, 57-17; Bloomsburg were impressive against Buffalo State, 67-15; Coast Guard wasn't challenged by Fairfield, 61-5; and Colorado Mesa moved by University of Wisconsin Osh Kosh, 59-22.

Sunday was not a lot closer, as only one game was decided by single digits. That was Winona State who almost saw an eighteen-point lead with fifteen minutes remaining disappear against the Colorado Mesa. The defending champions managed to hold on for a nail biting win, 37-33. In the other games the wins were more decisive. Cincinnati was able to book their spot in the last four after doubling Indiana University of Pennsylvania's score, 34-17. Vassar set themselves up for a shot at redemption with a 41-24 win over Bryant and Coast Guard were just too strong for Bloomsburg, recording a, 65-7, win.