Photo courtesy Winona State Women’s Rugby Facebook
A huge amount of women’s collegiate rugby occurs in the fall, and a good portion of that action is building toward the USA Rugby DII Fall College Championship. Playoff-bound teams will be finalized by the end of October, and the Round of 32 will be held Nov. 10. The Fall Rounds of 16/8 follow on Nov. 17-18, and the remaining four teams will convene on Dec. 1-2. Remember: USA Rugby does not hold 15s national championships for its women’s colleges.
The following is a run-down of the conferences building toward the DII Fall College Championship, and the number in parentheses reflects the number of teams eligible for that post-season path. But these figures are not an accurate representation of how many teams are actually playing in these conferences, many of which field hybrid pools and also developmental competitions for new and developing programs. Those teams are obviously not represented in the parentheses.
DI Kent State joins the four DII teams – IUP, Slippery Rock, West Virginia and Youngstown State, which is playing its first official 15s league season. Teams play each other once and then head into a final four for the championship. This conference also holds an NSCRO 15s competition and a fall 7s series for developing squads.
GREAT LAKES (8)
All eight Ohio and Michigan teams play each other once between Sept. 15 and Nov. 3, leaving a weekend before the Fall Round of 32 begins. Members: Bowling Green, Calvin College, Central Michigan, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley, Western Michigan.
GREAT WATERS (15)
The 15 schools are evenly distributed into three pools. The East and West pools are based in Wisconsin, with the exception of two Upper Peninsula teams. CARFU involves the Chicago-area teams. Conference quarterfinals and semifinals will be held Oct. 27-28, and the championship on Nov. 3. Members include:
East: Marquette, Northern Michigan, UW Oshkosh, UW Stevens Point, UW Whitewater
West: Michigan Tech, UW Eau Claire, UW La Crosse, UW Platteville, UW Stout
CARFU: DePaul, Loyola, Northwestern, Chicago, UIC
No changes in four-team Illinois (Illinois, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois) except that Lindenwood University’s B side is playing everyone, but won’t be eligible for playoffs. Northern Illinois is a member of the DI Midwest, and Eastern Illinois no longer exists.
There are technically eight Ivy teams but the three NIRA schools – Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard – will only play each other, and one will be named Ivy varsity champion. The five other schools – Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Yale – will vie for the Ivy club title, and the victor will advance to the DII fall playoffs.
We’re still sorting out the details of this conference (eg, if it’s hybrid and will name DI and/or DII reps to playoffs) and will update, but the women have left the Lonestar conference and realigned with the Texas Rugby Union. There are North and South pools that include Texas teams and Oklahoma, and crossover playoffs precede the conference championship. More to come. Participants include Angelo State, Oklahoma, North Texas, Sam Houston, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, UT San Antonio.
MARC is actually much bigger than the seven DII teams eligible for the post-season. The West and East pools include NSCRO teams York and Scranton, and the conference also hosts a Challenge pool, which currently includes eight young (like newcomer Marywood) or regrouping teams playing 7s, 10s or 15s on game day. The DII teams include Bloomsburg, Delaware, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, Rowan, St. Joe’s, Temple.
NEW ENGLAND SMALL COLLEGE
NESCRC disbanded effective June 1, 2018. Connecticut College, Colby, Middlebury and UMaine Orono joined Rugby Northeast, NSCRO and New England Wide.
NEW ENGLAND WIDE (6)
The league is another one that is much larger than the DII playoff-eligible teams. Coast Guard leads the six-team Tier 1, which also includes Hartford, Maine (absorbed from the now-defunct New England Small College conference), New Hampshire, Springfield and Vermont. Tier 2, dubbed “the next wave of NEWCRC talent,” includes another six teams, and the developmental Tier 3 has 11 teams. The conference website is very informative and current, so read more for details.
OHIO VALLEY (8)
Cincinnati assistant coach Kayla Closson is now the Ohio Valley conference commissioner and overseas an eight-team league led by UC, which finished fourth overall in last year’s fall championship. UC, Cedarville, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky, Marshall, Miami of Ohio and Ohio University will play each other once, and then the Nov. 3 championship will name reps to the Fall Round of 32.
NORTHERN LIGHTS (6)
Winona State is the long-time leader and current DII College Fall Champion. The Black Katts join Mankato State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, St. Cloud State and UM Duluth in two separate pools, which also feature an NSCRO team apiece (UM Moorhead and Gustavus Adolphus requested tougher matches will will reroute to NSCRO playoffs). The Minnesota playoffs call for a final four, but forfeits often see a one-game championship.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN (4)
Wyoming bumped up to Division I this year, leaving Colorado Mesa, Colorado Mines, Idaho State and Northern Colorado to duke it out. Teams play each other twice before conference championships. In addition to an 8-team DI, the region also hosts a four-team NSCRO competition.
RUGBY NORTHEAST (7)
The conference also hosts two competitions, but only Tier 1 (Bryant, Colby, Roger Williams, St. Anselm, St. Michael’s, Stonehill, UMass Lowell) is eligible for the DII fall playoffs. Tier 2 includes eight teams (Bentley, Franklin Pierce, Holy Cross, Merrimack, Middlebury, Northern Vermont, Providence, Southern Connecticut), many of which have NSCRO eligibility.
This New York-based conference is divided into North and South divisions, but the former houses the traditionally stronger teams, including 2017 fall runner-up Vassar College. The Brewers are joined by Albany, Marist, New Paltz, RPI and Siena, and all of them advance to the conference quarterfinals (Oct. 21), while South teams (Fairfield, Hofstra, Monroe, New Haven and Stony Brook) must first contest play-ins on Oct. 14. The league culminates with a championship on Nov. 3. The region also fields a five-team NSCRO division.
UPSTATE NEW YORK (8)
There are eight DII playoff-eligible teams, and they’re divided into two pools that include two NSCRO teams apiece. The DII teams in the East include Binghamton, Cortland, Ithaca and Syracuse (Colgate and Rochester are the NSCRO teams). The DII teams in the West include Brockport, Buffalo State, Fredonia and RIT (Geneseo and St. Bonaventure are the NSCRO teams). Additionally, there are another three NSCRO-only competitions that account for 14 teams, and they’ll reunite with those NSCRO hybrid competitors during the playoffs.
Upstate New York is another conference that does a good job circulating information in a timely fashion, so check out its site.