Life West’s Hali Deters. /// Photo: Jackie Finlan
So much has changed since last year – teams moved to and from DI, clubs bulked up schedules for a nationals run, and others fell completely off of the radar. This first ranking of the year relies on current results and blends them with the relative strength of regions as demonstrated at last year’s nationals, while also accounting for teams that have left the division. It also serves as a general update on what’s happening around the country.
First, here’s a look at the teams that look particularly strong this year:
Life West is a new team and should be playing in DI, if there was such a competition in the region. The Gladiatrix dominate NorCal and are propelled by Eagles like Jenn Sever and Catie Benson, and age-grade fixtures like Megan Pinson and Megan Foster – among many other talented players. The only drawback – other than meaningful competition – is the post-season barrier they provide to other good DII teams. With 2015 national runner-up Sacramento rebuilding, San Francisco Golden Gate could have made a decent addition to nationals, although it is missing the influence of difference-makers like Tiana Stroughter and Angelina Lomu. And if the DII Round of 16 is structured similarly to last year, with the NorCal champ playing the Pacific Northwest champ, then Life West will likely play Emerald City for the quarterfinal berth. The Mudhens are having a knockout year and are a top-five team, and if their season ends in the Round of 16, that would be unfortunate.
Defending DII champion Wisconsin is looking good again at 7-0 and would surprise no one if it returned to the national title match. Like all of the Midwest (and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic), the majority of the regular season was contested in the fall, and the final league games will occur in April. Needless to say, Wisconsin is the Midwest favorite.
2015 Midwest runner-up Cincinnati went on a 5-0 tear after a league-opening misstep against Scioto Valley. And Buffalo is on track to win the Midwest East 1. We’re keeping an eye on County Will Morrigans, which is 6-0-1 but endured a couple of forfeit wins. Instead, Milwaukee Scylla joins the list, playing in a competitive West 2 league alongside Wisconsin and Twin Cities. The Midwest crossovers will see the top two teams from each of the four divisions compete, and then the region will host a final four.
A really nice race evolved in the Northeast, with no teams escaping the fall without a loss. Burlington gets top billing at 5-0-1. The Vermont side advanced to last year’s quarterfinals and gave eventual champion Wisconsin a nice 26-15 game. Providence is on the list as well. The Rhode Island side dropped down from DI and sits in second place at 4-2. The top four teams traded wins and ties, and that will make for an exciting Northeast championship (May 7-8) between the aforementioned, Hartford and Portland.
Augusta did well to advance to last year’s DII semifinals but dropped a 41-12 decision to Wisconsin. The Furies are still the team to beat in the South, currently 4-0 in the Carolinas North, but Charlotte is looking impressive as well. The latter has won five league matches, and has already played six games so far in 2016. Looking forward to when these two teams see each other in the post-seaosn. We’re also watching Fort Miami, which has a ton of talent but struggling on the numbers/commitment front.
Southern California will wrap up its regular season in two weeks, and Tucson is leading with a 5-0 record. The Lightning has played its toughest games at home – Ventura, Fullerton and San Fernando Valley this weekend – and that is an advantage in the vast region. Tucson is beginning its surge, but the team needs post-season experience to really round out an already successful season. Lightning played a tough game against Fullerton a couple of weeks ago, and Tucson named the Wolfpack as its toughest competition to date.
Kansas City Jazz (3-0) is the traditional leader in the Frontier, but doesn’t see the type of physicality in league that Sacramento served in last year’s DII quarterfinals. The Jazz have attempted to bolster its schedule with a trip to Nash Bash (Nashville, Pittsburgh, Life University) and the regular season will pick up in April. The team has seen some turnover since last year, so it’ll be interesting to see whether it will be ready again for the western playoffs.
The Mid-Atlantic underwent a facelift this year, as last year’s national reps – Raleigh and Severn River – were promoted into DI. Brandywine has emerged as the region’s leader at 6-0, but it’s difficult to shake that 81-0 loss to Raleigh in last year’s MAC semifinals. MAC champion Severn River lost in the quarterfinals against Augusta.
Some teams are still dormant as winter wears off, but April will be a very busy month and require a lot of attention. Stay tuned!
DII CLUB RANKINGS – MARCH 23, 2016
Rank. Team (Record). Recent results
1. Life West (7-0). Lopsided victories in NorCal; won Champagne Classic
2. Wisconsin (7-0). Won Whiskey 10s; last league game April 16
3. Emerald City (6-0). Big lead in Pacific Northwest; beat Tacoma 58-0
4. Burlington (5-1). Atlantic North champion; idle until April 16
5. Augusta (4-0). Defeated Charleston 64-5; lost 25-0 friendly to DI Raleigh
6. Charlotte (5-0). Defeated Eno River 72-0; defeated league opponents 306-19
7. SFGG (4-2). Defeated San Jose 96-15; lost 62-6 to Life West
8. Providence (4-2). Idle until April 2
9. Tucson (5-0). Defeated Fullerton 26-5
10. Cincinnati (5-1). Idle until April 16; April 23 game to watch vs. Scioto Valley
11. KC Jazz (3-0). Friendlies at Nash Bash
12. Milwaukee Scylla (4-2). Gave Wisconsin a good game, beat DI Minn. Valkyries
13. Fullerton (4-1). Lost 26-5 to Tucson
14. Brandywine (6-0). Defeated Morris 41-28 in friendly
15. Buffalo (5-0). Last league game April 16