DII MVP Megan Foster congratulates Catie Benson after a 75-meter try. /// Photo: Travis Prior for USA Rugby
A lot has happened since the previous DII club ranking and the Top 15 reflects as much. The top two teams retained their spring-long rankings, while the remainder saw teams added, dropped and reordered to fit the lengthy post-season.
Life West has held the #1 ranking throughout 2016 and fulfilled expectations for a DII title with a 66-20 win over #2 Wisconsin in the national final. There is distance between Life West and the rest of the field, and so there were only a handful of results that lent actual insight into its opponents.
For example, Ventura scored 29 points against Life West during the national quarterfinals. The SoCal side had only one sub but rallied with late tries to score the most points against the eventual champion. It was a gritty performance, something that Ventura flashed during the SoCal final, when the Outlaws leaned on 13 players for the majority of the second half an a 28-18 win over OP Lightning.
What other gauges may be called up when teams’ common denominator is Life West, and the difference between 60- and 80-point decisions is negligible? When teams were essentially equal on the scoreboard, we looked for something to tip the scales.
Let’s take San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG) and Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC). If one relies on scores alone, then SFGG should be ranked above HARC. But consider the circumstances: SFGG was playing Life West for the NorCal title in a one-off, local game, and for the third time this spring. HARC was playing an unfamiliar opponent in a game that would afford a berth to the DII final, and a day after a 46-26 national quarterfinal win over the Kansas City Jazz. These two teams surrendered two big losses to the DII champion, although HARC was facing a better Life West in a higher-stakes game. The scale-tipper was HARC’s relationship with Austin. The pair fought for a berth to the DI national championship, and the Valkyries had to ramp up their performance after HARC pressured a regular-season loss.
Comparisons with Wisconsin were less convoluted. Mid-Atlantic champion Harrisburg defeated Burlington late in the teams’ quarterfinal, 18-15, and then pressured the eventual DII finalists in muddy conditions for a 31-17 loss. The Vermonters would have rated higher but lost its consolation match to South champ Charlotte (which lost 67-19 to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals) 26-7. Day-two victories are valuable. They not only speak to the depth of a squad but also its resiliency. When there’s nothing on the line other than pride and an opportunity to leave nationals with a win, how does a team respond?
Even though Milwaukee Scylla did not compete at nationals, the Midwest finalist bumped up to #5 because, one, Wisconsin continually asserted that its in-state rival prepared it for higher-level play; and two, Scylla came within two converted tries of the national runner-up during the Midwest championship. Brandywine (27-15 loss to Harrisburg) and Providence (15-10 overtime loss to Burlington) remained in the top 10 for their second-day, regional championship performances.
For the 15th slot, it was a toss-up between Pacific Northwest’s Emerald City, which had lost to Bend 20-15 in the league final; and South runner-up Nashville, which lost 43-7 to Charlotte. Bend had posted the biggest loss to Life West all season, and the latter lost to a team that was 40 points short of Wisconsin, which was 46 points short of Life West. The scale-tipper favored the Stone Lions, which disrupted an expected Augusta vs. Charlotte South final.
DIVISION 2 FINAL CLUB RANKING
Rank (Previous rank) Team (League record). Results
1 (1) Life West (14-0). Final: Defeated Wisconsin 66-20
2 (2) Wisconsin (12-1). Final: Lost 66-20 to Life West
3 (7) Ventura (8-3). QF: Lost 62-29 to Life West, Cons SF: Defeated KC Jazz 57-22
4 (unr) Harrisburg (10-2). QF: Defeated Burlington 18-15, SF: Lost 31-17 to Wisconsin
5 (13) Milwaukee Scylla (7-4). Midwest Final: Lost 47-33 to Wisconsin
6 (4) Charlotte (10-1). QF: Lost 67-19 to Wisconsin, Cons SF: Defeated Burlington 26-7
7 (3) Burlington (7-3). QF: Lost 18-15 to Harrisburg, Cons SF: Lost 26-7 to Charlotte
8 (8) Brandywine (9-1). MAC Final: Lost 27-15 to Harrisburg
9 (5) Providence (5-3). Northeast Final: Lost 15-10 to Burlington in overtime
10 (6) OP Lightning (8-1). SoCal Final: Lost to Ventura 28-18
11 (unr) HARC (8-3). QF: Defeated KC Jazz 46-26, SF: Lost 97-8 to Life West
12 (14) SFGG (7-3). NorCal Final: Lost 72-5 to Life West
13 (15) KC Jazz (6-2). QF: Lost 46-26 to HARC, Cons SF: Lost 57-22 to Ventura
14 (10) Bend (8-3). Pacific North Final: Lost 112-0 to Life West
15 (unr) Nashville (7-1-1). South SF: Defeated Augusta 17-5, South Final: Lost 43-7 to Charlotte