The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) May Madness 7s has narrowed its Women’s Premier Division to four teams. Grand Canyon University, Penn State University, Life University and Lindenwood University have advanced to Sunday’s semifinals, which begin at 4 p.m. CT.
Three of the four semifinalists have long histories at CRCs, and Penn State used to be the “local team” back when the event was held in Chester, Pa.
“Honestly, it’s incredible,” Penn State captain Natalie Bjorklund said. “I’ve never been to New Orleans before. I don’t think most of the team has been to New Orleans before. … And I haven’t been to CRCs since my freshman year because of Covid. It’s always fun but having it in a big city makes it even better.”
The Nittany Lions played a tough Round of 16 match against Claremont Colleges: 24-12 the final. In the quarterfinals, Penn State beat Univ. Northern Iowa 38-0.
“We kicked it into high gear this game,” Bjorklund said. “First game, there wasn’t a ton of communication. We were dragging a little bit. But this game we were able to play off each other a little better and understand the way we want to play. We want to play a little bit faster, a little more physical, and I really think we were able to bring those things into the second game.”
Bjorklund, Darina Roe and Camile White were all influential and will continue to be so when Penn State readies for Lindenwood tomorrow. The Lions shut out Notre Dame College 33-0 in the quarterfinals.
“Hopefully, I’m looking forward to putting some heat on Lindenwood,” Bjorklund looked toward Sunday. “It’s always fun playing them because they’re such a high-level team. They play so cohesively and it’s just beautiful rugby so it is fun to play against them.”
On the other side of the bracket, Life beat UC Davis 41-0 in the quarterfinals.
“We’re definitely being perfectionists right now,” Life senior Autumn LoCicero said. “Anything we see wrong, we try to fix it because we know we can’t make those mistakes in bigger games. … Every minute detail, whether that’s passing straight to people’s chest or tackling even harder and bigger. Just details.”
The Running Eagles will face Grand Canyon in the Sunday semifinals at 4 or 4:23 p.m. CT.
“We’re more connected so we’re having a little more fun,” said LoCicero, who graduates this spring, plays for the South U23 and PR7s this summer, and then will look for playing opportunities abroad (Australia!) during a gap year. “But we still have the same intention. We obviously didn’t get the job done last time [at the R7CC].”
The closest quarterfinal occurred in the final round, and for much of the game, Grand Canyon and Virginia Tech were within a conversion of each other. The Hokies featured in the DI Spring 15s championship in mid-May and quickly transitioned to 7s. Grand Canyon had about a month to learn 7s.
Virginia Tech scored first and then Bianca Curtis scored for the Arizona team and the conversion put the Lopes up 7-5. Angel Lucero scored a long breakaway try to give Grand Canyon a 12-5 lead. But Virginia Tech pushed to the final whistle, using back-to-back penalties to get the ball down to Grand Canyon’s try line. Ultimately the game ended in touch and the Lopes move on.
“It’s important because the only way we’re going to get better and continue to have a successful 7s program is to play teams that are at Virginia Tech’s level and higher,” GCU co-captain Danielle Sileo said of the importance of tough games. “And we’re just excited now to challenge ourselves.”
Sileo praised the grit, intensity and ball-handling of the team and noted a key work-on for tomorrow: taking the time to reset after mistakes.
The teams that lost their quarterfinal now funnel into Sunday’s Premier Plate (aka, 5th place playoffs):
2:28 p.m. UC Davis v Virginia Tech
2:51 p.m. Northern Iowa v Notre Dame College
Those teams that lost their Round of 16 matches funneled into the Survivor Shield, aka, 9th place bracket. Results from the Survivor Shield quarterfinals:
Notre Dame 31-5 Southern Nazarene
Iowa 33-12 Southern Oregon
Michigan 12-5 Boise State
Claremont 36-7 Clemson
3:14 p.m. Notre Dame v Iowa
3:37 p.m. Michigan v Claremont
The four teams that lost their Survivor Shield quarterfinals will compete toward the Challenge Bowl, aka, 13th place bracket.
Sunday Bowl Semifinals
12:10 p.m. Southern Oregon v Southern Nazarene
12:33 p.m. Boise State v Clemson