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NEC7C Expands in Sophomore Season

  • 15 Jan 2019
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2018 NEC7C champion Bentley University

Women’s college 7s is still in an amorphous state. It’s relatively young compared to its 15s counterpart, which is also segmented into seasons and different organizations. When it comes to nationals, the qualification process and divisions held continuously alter, which puts the pressure on competition directors to stay ever-informed and often relentless in their communication with USA Rugby, National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO), etc.

Chip Auscavitch has practice navigating these circumstances and refreshed those skills last year when launching the New England Collegiate 7s Circuit (NEC7C), which was women-only in 2018. The competition goals have remained the same in 2019, which begins Feb. 23, as more teams, improvements and also challenges mark season two.

“My vision is to provide a competition structure with no barriers to entry and that allows 7s to develop as a viable spring sport,” Auscavitch explained. “I want to see one-off tournaments replaced by a 7s season that ultimately feeds into a combination of conference championship tournaments and national tournaments. However, to get where I want this to go, incentives need to be put in place and a high degree of flexibility has to be permitted in order to get teams to buy in.”

RELATED: 2019 Women’s Rugby Calendar

In its sophomore season, the NEC7C grew from 13 to 19 teams, and 11 tournaments to potentially 16 in 2019. The competition includes 12 Division II schools, six from NSCRO and DI Boston University.

“This is the first time the NEC7C is dipping its toe in the DI waters and is doing so with an eye towards potentially growing in that direction in the future,” Auscavitch noted. “The competition is highly transparent in the way it’s run and takes feedback seriously. An end-of-season survey specifically asked about expanding into DI, and based on feedback received, the decision was made to give it a try with one team this year.”

The women’s competition will enjoy a few upgrades, including hosting earlier tournaments at schools with turf fields (to negate snow cancellations) and a different process for naming champions.

“While the competition mirrors the HSBC World Series in that it doesn’t hold a championship tournament, the last two tournaments will split teams into the top half and bottom half, and both tournaments will be awarded double points in the standings,” Auscavitch enthused. “This combination should allow for all teams to finish the season with more competitive games, and should also provide excitement at the end of the season with a lot of movement in the circuit standings.”

Auscavitch has also brought on more help. Jeremey Smith of UMass Lowell is running the new 16-team men’s division, and former UMass Lowell women’s head coach Jess Yu is handling the social media.

Auscavitch is building an attractive, highly communicative, flexible competition that will get more teams playing 7s.

RELATED: 2018 All-NEC7C Team

“Our biggest challenge to date has been explaining the competition, conveying its mission, and at times defending its structure when it comes to trying to be awarded an Automatic Qualifier (AQ) for USA Rugby and NSCRO national championships,” Auscavitch lamented. “The goal for this year is to be awarded an AQ for both D2 and NSCRO levels, and for both men and women. Because each of the four national competitions are organized by different groups of people with different viewpoints, application requirements, and competition structures, this has been the most difficult task the NEC7C has encountered.”

Lengthy discussions of varying clarity continue, but at present, only NSCRO has awarded an AQ to the NEC7C men’s division. Auscavitch understands growing pains and finds some comfort in a plan that places the competitiveness of the 7s season first.

“Ultimately, I’m not interested in the AQ down the road, but for the next few years the competition needs it in order to help pull more teams into an organized 7s season,” Auscavitch explained. “When the region reaches a tipping point where all teams are playing 7s, and all conferences have enough interest in their respective 7s championship tournaments, then the NEC7C would switch from a national qualifier to a regular-season competition. That will allow teams to improve their 7s play as well as their resumes towards earning an at-large seed if they ultimately don’t win their conference 7s championship.”

The action begins on Feb. 23 and champions will be named by April 14. Stay tuned.

NEC7C WOMEN’S TEAMS

USAR Division I – Boston University

USAR Division II – Babson, Brandeis, Bryant, Framingham, Maine, MIT, Mt. Holyoke, New Hampshire, St. Anselm, Stonehill, UMass Lowell, Wesleyan

NSCRO – Bentley, Endicott, Johnson & Wales, New England College, Providence, Wheaton

NEC7C

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