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College’s Spring 15s Begins its Bloom

  • 29 Jan 2024
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GCU Women's Rugby

There is a lot of collegiate activity in the spring – a season that actually begins in January – but College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) is the only organization contesting 15s for women’s colleges this time of year. The two other main organizations – NCR and NIRA – named their 15s national champions in the fall and play 7s (or non-league 15s) in the spring. And of course, there is an exception or two to those general guidelines. [Lead photo: J Dalton Photography / see more]

But for now, 15s focus heads to the CRAA, which will crown three women’s 15s champions in April-May: DI Elite, DI Spring and DII Spring. The following covers DI Elite and DI Spring, and the subsequent update will focus on Division II.

DI ELITE

The competition includes six teams but really four programs (BYU, Central Washington, Life, Lindenwood) are playing a complete season. Grand Canyon is like a part-time member playing exhibition games. The Lopes currently compete in the spring-based DI Pacific Desert conference and just kicked off its season with a win against Arizona last Saturday.

Penn State played a rich but more local schedule in the fall. The program played strong teams in the NCAA varsity and DI spaces, and also Life and Lindenwood. So far this spring, the Nittany Lions are only penciled in to play Life on Feb. 25, placing the team into a category closer to Grand Canyon’s station.

The league contested the first half of the schedule in the fall; check out the current standings. Lindenwood is undefeated and Life is close behind. Central Washington is even at 2-2 and played a solid game against the Lions. BYU returned to DI Elite after several years in DI and is looking for its first win. The Cougars played the Wildcats competitively in the fall, so that’s the rematch to target. One wishes BYU and Penn State scheduled a match against each other, as that pairing would likely be competitive too.

The league restarts on Feb. 10 (check out the rest of the schedule) and moves into semifinals on March 30. The national final is April 13.

DI SPRING

GCU Women's Rugby

Grand Canyon vs. Arizona / Photo: J Dalton Photography (see more)

The Division I Spring 15s competition represents the largest segment of the CRAA women’s membership, and the leagues are active right now. Regionals are scheduled for April 20-21, and those playoffs will produce the finalists for the spring championship, to be held May 4-5 in Houston, Texas.

Remember: DI Spring is not a national championship, but a seasonal one, as CRAA holds separate fall and spring 15s seasons for its members. Northeastern University won the CRAA DI Fall 15s Championship. And there is no 2023 DI Spring 15s Championship titleholder to dethrone, as that match was canceled last year.

FLORIDA (3)
Univ. Central Florida, Florida, Florida State

Teams play each other home and away, and Charlee Veláquez’s site, Rugby in Florida, does a great job of bringing visibility to the league and all of Florida. The first matrix match of the season occurred last Saturday, and Univ. Florida beat Florida State 30-14. This Saturday, UCF travels to the Seminoles for its season opener. There will be a state championship, too.

PACIFIC DESERT (8)
Univ. Arizona, Arizona State, Claremont Colleges, Grand Canyon, UCLA, UC San Diego, San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara

Definitely a league to watch this year. After the 2023 DI Spring Championship was canceled, BYU left for the DI Elite. CSU Northridge dropped to DII as well. This year’s competition then gained Claremont and San Diego State from DII, and those moves were in anticipation of a smaller DII Spring competition.

The shakeup is underway, as Claremont, in its DI debut, banked its first official DI win on Saturday: 29-10 against UCSB.

Grand Canyon is the frontrunner for the conference title, having finished second to BYU the last few years and with several appearances at Western Regionals. The Lopes opened with a 59-3 win against Arizona on Saturday. Angel Lucero and Angelique Schrock scored two tries apiece, while Samantha Garcia led all point scorers with 17 on a try and six conversions.

Arizona State and UCLA are both 1-0, too. The Sun Devils beat UC San Diego (0-2) 24-12 on Saturday, and the Bruins beat Arizona (0-2) 17-14 on Jan. 20. Check out the full schedule.

All eight teams play each other once during the regular season. TBA on how the post-season will evolve, but the top-two teams should secure spots at Western Regionals (April 20-21).

Fresno State rugby

Fresno State vs. Chico State / Photo: Marcos Dorado @TheFresnoAthlete

PACIFIC MOUNTAIN (9)
North: Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Western Washington
West: Cal, Chico, UC Davis, Fresno State, Stanford

The North and West go home-and-away against their respective NorCal and Pacific Northwest opponents, then cross over on April 6-7 at conference playoffs. The bidding process will close next week, and then a location will determined.

The North contested a couple of regular-season rounds before winter break, and Western Washington is up 2-0. The Vikings’ closest game was against Oregon (17-14) and that rematch happens this Saturday. The Ducks are currently 1-1, having defeated Oregon State 52-12 in the fall. The Beavers face Washington this Saturday and both are looking for their first win.

Stanford is 4-0 in the West and just played its toughest game last Saturday: a 31-7 win against Cal (1-1). The Cardinal and Bears are the favorites for repeat berths to PMRC playoffs, but there’s still a lot of rugby to play.

Fresno State is 2-1, sandwiching a shutout defeat to Stanford with wins against Chico State (32-3) and Davis (32-10). Cal is this weekend. At present, the Pacific Mountain conference does not have a current competition uploaded in Xplorer.

BLUE RIDGE (3)
Howard, North Carolina State, Virginia Women’s Rugby

These three programs are playing each other home and away this spring (and supplementing with competitive friendlies against Virginia Tech, UNC and James Madison) for berths to the spring 15s post-season. It’s a new group so the info gathering continues.

Howard is new to DI and self-promoted after finishing runner-up in the 2023 DII final. The move was also a necessity, as the team’s previous conference – DII Capital – transferred to NCR beginning in fall 2023. The next-closest CRAA DII conference? Florida. So DI it is.

VWR and NC State (and the rest of the Blue Ridge conference) also joined NCR’s DI this past fall, and the Hoos finished third at the St. Louis regional. But, not all of the teams relinquished their CRAA membership, and since teams can belong to both CRAA and NCR, NC State and VWR are having another go this spring. Teams activate this weekend.

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