The first USA Rugby DII College Spring Ranking begins with 15 teams, and they represent eight conferences building toward the spring championship (not the national championship, which does not exist for DI or DII women’s colleges).
The top-four teams from last year’s spring championship are again having good seasons. Fourth-place Salisbury repeated as Capital conference champion, beating out George Washington and William & Mary (both on the list) to the top of the podium. This league contests its entire season in the fall, so the post-season teams will play 15s friendlies in the lead-up to the regional championships in April.
Third-place Fresno State competes in the West Coast conference, which hosts a split season and needs to make up league games that were canceled by the Camp Fire disaster in the fall. The Bulldogs and UN Reno, both undefeated, are the teams to beat (they play each other March 16), but we’re keeping an eye on St. Mary’s College (3-1) as a contender.
2018 runner-up Claremont College and Pacific Desert mate Long Beach State are both 2-0 and again look the strongest in the SoCal league. They’ll meet each other this weekend, and that showdown is the game to watch on Feb. 9.
Tulane is the reigning spring champion and will play its first matrix match in the South Independent Rugby Conference (SIRC) this weekend. The team was supposed to open against Tennessee, but that resulted in a forfeit win. Fortunately, the Green Wave banked a friendly win against Louisiana State in the run-up to league. Meanwhile, UGA earned a 36-7 win over Georgia Tech and represents SIRC on the rankings, but we’re eager for this weekend and the uptick in active teams.
John Brown University beat Tulane in a pre-season friendly, 31-24. The two had played each other in the 2018 spring Round of 16 and have built out their relationship. The Arkansas team has posted two big wins in the Mid-America, and the Feb. 16 match against the consistently good Kansas State will be an important benchmark.
Even more than the West Coast conference, the Carolinas endured heavy cancellations during the fall hurricanes, and teams that have committed to the matrix season have a density of league games this February. After scrimmaging DI South Carolina to a 19-17 loss, College of Charleston thumped UNC Charlotte 95-5. We’re tracking Coastal Carolina, which dropped a seven-point match to UNC Wilmington, which is not playing in the matrix season this spring.
In Florida, Eckerd College is the favorite and opened with a 76-0 win over South Florida. The Sirens stay pretty active in the fall season and they’ll test themselves in the new hybrid conference, which blends DI and DII teams together.
Finally, there’s Eastern Washington. The Cascade conference is mostly small schools not playing 15s (except University of Puget Sound), and Eastern Washington is the league’s only team playing in DII. That means the Cheney, Wash., team must build a non-league schedule and apply for an at-large berth to playoffs. EWU’s not cruising through the small schools but lined up several friendlies against DI programs in the fall. We think they’re going for it and are affording that last spot to Eastern Washington.