USA Rugby’s fall colleges took a step deeper into the playoffs today, as Division I contested its quarterfinals, and Division II held its Round of 16. It’s a double-game weekend, so the pressure mounts Sunday.
Muddy and cold conditions marked the east and west playoff locations – Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Columbia, Mo., respectively – but didn’t necessarily slow down the action. All eight victors put in bonus-point wins, and with the exception of UW Oshkosh, held opponents to fewer than four tries.
Reigning fall champion Winona State beat Rocky Mountain runner-up Colorado School of Mines 57-17. The Black Katts finished most of its tries through the backs, and Abigail Andler, who played flyhalf in last year’s title campaign, put in a hat-trick performance from outside center. Winona State will face Colorado Mesa University in Sunday’s West quarterfinal. The Mavericks bested UW Oshkosh 59-22 and saw flyhalf Ty Houkamau and wing Allie Dovey dot down three tries apiece. Sunday’s winner will represent the West in the fall semifinals.
The Midwest will send either Cincinnati or Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 1-2. Cincinnati beat Iowa State 48-10 and did well to move the ball around today. Hooker Molly Martin, fullback Madeleine Conklin (2), prop Hailey Tippett (2), replacement wing Cosette Busch, outside center Paige Roller and inside center Justine Perl (who also kicked four conversions) all scored. IUP sent the ball to the backs for the majority of the tries, with the exception of prop Alina Withers’ two tries. Outside center Rachael Collins and fullback Emily Ryan were particularly devastating with ball in hand.
Come semifinals, the Midwest and West champions will face each other, while the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will do battle.
The Northeast is down to Vassar College and Bryant University. The Brewers build a solid 17-point lead after 30 minutes, but then two quick tries from Maine saw the halftime score sit at 17-12. But Vassar methodically worked five more tries – two in the final minutes – for a comfortable 44-12 win. No. 8 Oshana Reich scored three tries. Bryant put up 25 unanswered points against Kutztown in the first half, until back-to-back scores from the Bears made it interesting for the first 10 minutes of the second half (25-12). Bryant kept getting the ball into the hands of its faster players, and two tries from wing Courtney Wheeler added some cushion to the 40-12 win.
All of the aforementioned fall quarterfinalists are the champions of their respective conferences, and same goes for the remaining Mid-Atlantic pool teams. Coast Guard won the New England Wide, and Bloomsburg won the Mid-Atlantic (MARC). The Bears beat Fairfield 61-5, and really pulled away from its 24-5 halftime lead. Watch for lock Hayden Short and fullback Hollis Roush to be influential Sunday. Bloomsburg lead strikers are also well known – Selena Fernandez, Sarah Van Cise, Christiana Deo – and they did not disappoint in their roles today. The Huskies beat Buffalo State 84-15.
Reigning fall champion Davenport kicked off its post-season with a 43-12 win over Northeast runner-up Northeastern. The Panthers put up three tries – locks Ashley Willsea and Lily O’Connor and outside center Megan Bird – in the first 20 minutes, but Northeastern answered with an Isabel Haber try for a 15-5 halftime. But two quick tries after the break gave Davenport the momentum to finish. Davenport will play UConn, which built a 20-5 halftime lead over Big 10 runner-up Michigan State on the other side of the bracket. Three more tries from Kasey Mahan, Ellen Chirikos and Abigail Gosselin sealed the 35-10 win.
It was one-way traffic during Air Force’s 76-5 win over Sam Houston State, which is competing in its first DI season and beat out Texas A&M for the berth to fall regionals. Air Force was able to move the ball around a bunch, and No. 8 Sierra DeHart and captain/outside center Sara Cook to finish attacking campaigns in the try zone. Air Force will play Minnesota, which beat Notre Dame 43-12 in today’s quarterfinals. Gophers scrumhalf Averie Mitchell-Brown – one of TRB’s favorite halfbacks alongside Davenport’s Olivia Ortiz – was again a knockout and guiding force in the win.
Click here to see the brackets.