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Recap: College Championship Weekend

  • 22 Nov 2021
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Photos: Mark Washburn (@mwashburnphoto) for NIRA

The following is a recap of the college championships and playoffs that took place this past weekend. Stay tuned for more detailed features as coach and player interviews file in this week. Check out the competitions’ brackets here.

NIRA

The NCAA varsity league named its three national champions inside Army West Point’s Anderson Rugby Complex. Dartmouth beat Army 28-18 to kick off the weekend under the lights, and freshman starting hooker Sia Meni shared insight into what it’s like to begin college with a national championship. Fifth-year prop Idia Isenhekshien scored two tries and earned MVP honors.


Dartmouth fullback Lilly Durbin / Photo: Mark Washburn (@mwashburnphoto)

American International College entered the DII post-season as the third-seeded team and exited it as the national champion. 2019 national champion West Chester University led for most of the half and stayed within a converted try of AIC until the final 10 minutes of the game, when championship MVP Jessica Berggren dove over for the second of the lock’s two tries. AIC won 29-17.

Bowdoin College was the only 2019 champion to repeat in 2021, and did so with a 31-12 win against 2019 finalist Univ. New England. The Polar Bears were a bit faster, a bit crisper and little more savvy game strategy wise, and players like MVP and freshman No. 8 Rebecca Vakarau pushed a mobile, creative game.

CRAA

The USA Rugby-aligned competition now knows its DI Fall Championship finalists, which will report to Matthews, N.C., on Dec. 4. The ACRA final will also occur alongside the CRAA title match.

Davenport University won the West after defeating Univ. Colorado 72-10 in the quarterfinals and Utah State 70-26 in Sunday’s semifinal. Utah State advanced to the semifinals after a 40-19 win against Michigan. The Panthers’ speed and organized attack showed really well. Center Grace Gohl in particular is an electric ballcarrier, but Davenport can score through every position.

Navy returns to the DI fall title match after defeating UCONN 44-17 Saturday and then battling Northeastern to a 17-7 semifinal win Sunday. The Maddogs advance to the semifinals after a 43-5 win against Indiana. Navy held a tenuous 3-0 lead in the second half and then Northeastern surged ahead with a Maya Raghavan try and Caroline Swenson conversion. The Maddogs then got into penalty trouble as Navy attacked in their 22, and a final not-10 tackle after a quick tap penalty afforded a penalty try to the home team, 10-7 Navy. A few minutes later, Lindy Gostage ended Northeastern’s hopes for a comeback, scoring the final try. Rebecca Peasley added the conversion for the 10-point win.

ACRA

Vassar College and Temple University will decide the ACRA championship on Dec. 4 in Matthews, N.C. Vassar hosted the Round of 8/4 and started the weekend with a 53-5 win against Colby. The Brewers then faced Coast Guard, which had defeated Colorado School of Mines 20-19 in Saturday’s quarterfinals. The Bears led 15-0 after the first quarter, and then the home team rallied for a 36-20 win. Vassar head coach Tony Brown recounts the entire comeback.

Temple also needed to rally in its semifinal. After defeating Colorado Mesa University 43-10 on Saturday, the Owls lined up against Univ. Vermont, which had topped Fairfield University 52-22 in the quarterfinals. The teams scored three tries apiece but conversions from Pippa Barratt and Zay Baribaud were the difference in the 19-17 win. Read more for Temple’s build to the post-season.

Keep in mind that there is a fourth competition – National Collegiate Rugby – that contested its regional playoffs on Nov. 13-14. NCR is holding its national championship weekend on Dec. 4-5 in Knoxville, Tenn. Stay tuned for more detailed features.

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