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NCR Division I Already Producing Leaders

Michigan rugby field captain Maddie Bowers

National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) released its first round of Coaches Polls last week, and they serve as a great check-in for top-performing teams. Division I is NCR’s smallest women’s competition but it’s at its largest with 27 members this fall. The regional post-season begins Nov. 10-12 with quarterfinals and semifinals (in two locations), and then the national 15s championship is Sunday, Dec. 3 in Houston, Texas. The DI final is part of a larger weekend with Division II and Small College semifinals and championships.

RELATED: Fall 2023 Rugby CalendarWomen’s Rugby Scores: Sept. 22-24


Kent State, Notre Dame College, Univ. Pittsburgh

Teams will play each other once to determine final standings heading into playoffs, and bulk up their schedules with friendlies against Upstate New York, Ohio and Michigan teams. Notre Dame College is the front runner as the 2022 national runner-up and has a new coach in Vanessa Marsh, formerly of Baldwin Wallace. Euclid, Ohio, is also the home to one of the most prolific NCR players in the USA age grade system, Alivia Leatherman. The junior competed with the USA U23s this past summer and is part of the Women’s National Team training camp in Ireland.

Kent State is a well run program, and the Golden Flashes warmed up with a close win against DII Cincinnati and then beat Upstate New York’s only DI team, Colgate, 86-19. DII Cornell shut out Pitt two weekends ago, and then had its match against Gannon canceled on Saturday.


BIG 10 (7)

Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue

The Big 10 has easily been the most active competition so far this fall, with some teams banking three league games already. Reigning national champion Michigan (3-0) got moving on Sept. 1 with a friendly win against NCAA varsity Adrian College, then beat Indiana and Notre Dame by a combined 89-12. On Saturday, the Wolverines traveled to Iowa (0-2-1) and eked out a 24-19 win.

After its opening loss to Michigan, Indiana rallied with back-to-back victories: 46-15 vs. Iowa and 33-26 vs. Notre Dame. This Saturday will be the Redstorm’s third-straight game at home and it’ll host Purdue, currently 2-0-1. The Boilermakers are already in the middle of a successful season, vastly improving on a winless fall 2022, and it’s the product of driven student leadership and inspiring coaching (feature to come). Purdue tied Iowa in week one, followed with a two-point win against Ohio State (0-2), and then beat Michigan State (0-1) 32-12 on Sunday.


Boise State

This is a new conference that brings DI, DII and small college Rocky Mountain-region teams together. Boise State is the lone DI member, but the returning NCR member is happy for some regularly scheduled competition. The team kicked off with a round robin against Montana State and Univ. Montana – a welcomed sight. All three teams went 1-1. Boise State will also play Univ. Idaho and DI Elite’s Central Washington.


Boise State rugby

Boise State / Photo: Jackie Finlan/TRB


Southern Nazarene, Texas A&M, Texas

Last year, newcomer Southern Nazarene started the season in Lone Star’s Division II, but after an incredible run against the Texan competition, shifted to Division I for the post-season. This year, SNU starts the season in DI, but the domination has not abetted. The Oklahoma team opened with an 80-0 win against Texas and then tested itself against DI Elite Lindenwood Univ. last Saturday. It was a 45-15 loss, but a valuable experience.

DII UT San Antonio and newcomer Louisiana State are both on the schedule, and they’ve already beaten DI competition. LSU beat Texas A&M 31-12, and UTSA topped Texas 15-0 in non-league play.


Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Minnesota, UW Madison, Winona State

The conference will play its first regular-season matches on Saturday. The fall build-up began with the Sept. 15 Super Saturday, in which all of the teams assemble for pre-season games. UNI went undefeated and Iowa State followed suit – a trend of the previous few years. This Saturday, Sept. 30 marks the first conference games.



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Clemson, James Madison, NC State, UNC, UVA, Virginia Tech

The South Atlantic (SARC) is a new DI competition for NCR, but it’s essentially the Blue Ridge conference from CRAA plus Clemson. It’s a nice addition to NCR and expands DI’s footprint into the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast.

Virginia Women’s Rugby (aka UVA) has qualified for the previous two CRAA DI spring championships and the program has challenged itself early on with a friendly against DI Elite Penn State. The team was supposed to play its first conference match Saturday but weather canceled the Univ. North Carolina (0-1) fixture.

Virginia Tech (1-0) made the switch to NCR last season. After a forfeit win against James Madison (0-2), the Hokies beat North Carolina State (1-1) 43-12. The Wolfpack beat UNC in week one 50-7. As mentioned, Clemson (1-0) is also an NCR returner and began its fall campaign with a 66-0 win against James Madison.




As the only DI team in Upstate New York, Colgate is playing all of the Allegheny DI teams and the stronger DII teams in the region. The team’s 1-2 so far, defeating DII Binghamton 38-26, and losing to DII Buffalo 24-5 and DI Kent State 86-12. By the time the team hits the post-season, it’ll have played seven games, one of the more robust schedules in the league.


Aquinas College

Kayla Dustin is the interim head coach at Aquinas College, which saw its previous head coach, Laura Miller, depart for DIII NIRA Bowdoin College this fall. Seems like the Michigan varsity program is still trying to sort itself, as there are no games listed on the team’s website. The Saints do however feature on Kent State’s schedule for Oct. 14.

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