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CRAA Caps Women’s Collegiate Season

  • 07 May 2024
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Harvard Rugby 7s

The College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) closed out its women’s 7s and 15s seasons at the Houston SaberCats’ facility last Friday-Sunday. All told, four teams were crowned champions, and they hailed from California, Massachusetts and Washington. Watch replays (of stadium matches) on The Rugby Network. [All photos: Jeff Dalton Photography IG @jeffd2u]

The 7s championships played a Friday-Saturday format and thus the first to award Premier and Club trophies. The Premier division included 10 teams from the DI Elite and NCAA varsity spaces, and these top-tier crossover matches are always a highlight of the year. Up until last Saturday, the DI Elite teams have dominated the trophy case (see history of champions below), but Harvard — the reigning NIRA DI 15s champion — snapped that trend by defeating Lindenwood 17-12 in the final. Harvard actually beat Lindenwood twice in Houston, having defeated the Lions 17-10 in the opening round of pool play. See full list of results.

Harvard’s Cam Fields was named championship MVP. The sophomore has already scored 50 tries for the Crimson and 11 of those were dotted down in Houston. Fields is in the USA 7s Pathway, as is younger sister Kori, a first-year at Long Island University. The NorCal siblings reunited in the teams’ final pool game on Friday, a match that Harvard won 26-0.

So Harvard did the double this year with 15s and 7s national championships, but Davenport University is very close to mirroring those achievements. The reigning NIRA DII 15s champion was the only DII team in the Premier 7s competition — everyone else was DI Elite or NCAA DI. The Panthers won a crucial pool game against 2023 Premier 7s champion Life University, and it came down to a conversion.

 

Davenport Rugby 7s

Coyer-Westerberg vs. Dartmouth in the 3rd place match / Jeff Dalton Photography

Finisher extraordinaire Carrie Coyer-Westerberg was beating the defense out wide all day, but those off-center tries did mean tough conversion attempts for scrumhalf Aubrey Crist. And that’s what happened after Coyer-Westerberg’s game-tying try against Life (on the broadcast, one could see the freshman apologize to Crist for the placement while handing over the ball for the dropkick). Maybe 15 meters off the sideline, Crist nailed the conversion to end the game with a win, and the whole team erupted.

That match essentially eliminated Life from the Cup bracket, and the Panthers rode that momentum to a 3rd place finish, beating Dartmouth 12-7 in the teams’ final games in Texas. But there were so many close games and single-digit decisions, and that’s what makes these 7s tournaments exciting.

 

Sacred Heart rugby 7s

Jeff Dalton Photography

PLACING MATCHES
9th: Central Washington 21-5 Penn State
7th: Long Island 19-12 Princeton
5th: Sacred Heart 17-14 Life
3rd: Davenport 12-7 Dartmouth

Championship
Harvard 17-12 Lindenwood

The CLUB 7S DIVISION was a mix of DI (5) and DII (3) teams, and as one might expect, the DI teams had more success. The competition followed a traditional 7s format, with two pools of four teams, pool play games on day one, and knockouts on day two.

 

Western Washington rugby

Jeff Dalton Photography

POOL A
Colorado St 19-15 Air Force
Colorado St 26-7 San Jose St
Colorado St 14-10 UCLA
Air Force 14-7 UCLA
Air Force 24-5 San Jose St
UCLA 7-7 San Jose St

POOL B
Western Washington 5-0 Cal Poly SLO
Western Washington 41-0 UC Irvine
Western Washington 22-12 Colorado Mesa
Colorado Mesa 43-0 UC Irvine
Colorado Mesa 36-0 Cal Poly SLO
Cal Poly SLO 14-10 UC Irvine

Three Rocky Mountain conference teams advanced to the Cup semifinals along with Pacific Mountain’s Western Washington — which was fresh off a deep spring 15s run that ended in Arizona two weeks prior. So the Vikings very much had this May weekend in Texas on the calendar, hoping to be featuring in the DI Spring 15s Championship but happy to pivot for a 7s run if the 15s pathway ended early. In this case, the double 7s and 15s weekend worked out.

 

Colorado State rugby

Jeff Dalton Photography

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo found itself in a similar but slightly different situation. The Mustangs did book their spot in the DII Spring 15s Championship but also the West Coast conference 7s title. Initially, it looked like the Californian team was going to have to choose between 7s and 15s, but with a robust squad, Cal Poly opted to enter squads into competitions. Although the Mustangs finished 6th overall but was the top DII team in the 7s competition.

Western Washington knocked off 2023 CRAA DI 7s runner-up Air Force 19-15 in the Cup semifinals, while Colorado State beat Colorado Mesa 17-10. The Mavericks are a first-year DI team and won the CRAA DII 7s Championship in 2023. The final delighted, and Western Washington held off Colorado State to the tune of a 12-7 victory and Club 7s championship.

 

Western Washington rugby

Jeff Dalton Photography

FINAL PLACES
7th: UC Irvine 10-0 San Jose St
5th: UCLA 22-5 Cal Poly SLO
3rd: Air Force 19-7 Colorado Mesa

Championship
Western Washington 12-7 Colorado St

SPRING FIFTEENS

Sunday was for 15s, and Cal Poly SLO served as a nice transition from the 7s to 15s formats. The Mustangs not only had the 7s tournament to build momentum into the women’s DII Spring 15s Championship, but also had a lot of 15s rugby behind it this spring. The West Coast conference champion played a full regular season before its two conference playoffs. Then the team traveled south to UC Irvine — which also made that 7s/15s switch to be in Houston — to play into the spring final. Additionally, all that rugby meant that Cal Poly had experienced some big travel weekends, including previous trips to CRAA 7s nationals.

 

Eckerd College meanwhile is starved for 15s rugby in Florida and played just two proper 15s matrix matches ahead of the final. That’s the situation in Florida, but in the Southeast corner of the country, where Eckerd might pick up additional competition, all of those DII conferences moved to NCR after last year. So there *is* rugby to be had in that southeastern corner, it’s just happening in the fall instead.

All of that background lends context to the 104-5 win that Cal Poly logged into the history books. It’s the program’s first spring championship title, and it took a lot of work to get there. Stay tuned for interview with captain Abby Jens.

 

Stanford rugby

Jeff Dalton Photography

The DI Spring 15s Championship between Stanford and Grand Canyon followed — eventually. Nearly five hours of weather delays pushed kickoff deep into the evening. But when it was finally time to kick off, Stanford that went to work quickly, building a 17-5 halftime lead. Read Stanford’s full recap.

Grand Canyon scored right after the break, 17-12, to build some momentum, and then the Cardinal spent the rest of the third quarter scoring three tries and two conversions. It was 36-12 as the fourth quarter approached, and the Lopes put away one more score before the whistle sounded: 36-19 the final. Stay tuned for an interview with Stanford captain and No. 8 Mahie Wilhelm.

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