The National Invitational Tournament (NIT) holds Single-School and High School Club competitions, and this year they are occurring in different locations. The Single-School NIT is being held Saturday-Sunday, May 18-19 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
The tournament moved farther west in attempts to engage high schools in a different part of the country, and has done so with the debuts of Idaho’s Capital, a regular state championship contender, and Colorado’s Palmer, which is led by Amy Rusert, coach of DI College Fall Champion Air Force. The remainder of the eight-team field has competed at NITs previously.
Wisconsin’s Catholic Memorial and Divine Savior Holy Angels finished second and third, respectively, at last year’s NIT, and the Dashers defeated the Crusaders in this season’s state 15s final. They may cross paths again at the Midwest High School Championship on April 27-28 in Elkhart, Ind.
The lineup also includes the 2018 NIT DII finalists in champion Broken Arrow and runner-up Grandville. Broken Arrow continues to set the standard in Oklahoma and the Bulldogs finished second in this season’s Michigan state 15s final.
Tennessee’s McMinn Tribe has remained committed to the invitational and this season bids farewell to head coach Buck Billings, who will officially assume the role of Lander University (S.C.) men’s and women’s head coach in June. Lander added rugby to its athletics department and Billings recently recruited three Tribe players to the women’s collegiate team.
The hometown favorite is long-time reigning Colorado state champion Summit. The Tigers last appeared at NITs in 2016, when the competition split into single-school and club divisions, and finished 2nd to St. Joseph (Ohio). Since then, Rugby Colorado has moved away from 15s and contests a 7s-only season in the fall for the girls.
The Single-School NIT will be live-streamed from Glendale, Colo., and Merlins head coach Jamie Burke and Holly Minor will be commentating. Day one will be played on the turf pitch outside of the stadium, and at 4 p.m., Major League Rugby’s Glendale and Seattle will play inside Infinity Park. The Sunday finals will be played in the stadium.
SINGLE-SCHOOL NIT TEAMS
Broken Arrow – Oklahoma
Capital – Idaho
Catholic Memorial – Wisconsin
Divine Savior Holy Angels – Wisconsin
Grandville – Michigan
McMinn – Tennessee
Palmer – Colorado
Summit – Colorado