On Nov. 10-12, National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) held regional championships for its women’s Division I, Division II and Small College 15s competitions. Now, 10 teams advance to the final rounds of their respective divisions, and head to AVEVA Stadium (Houston, Texas) to decide the 2023-24 champions on Dec. 2-3. The following is a general recap; stay tuned for individual coaches’ interviews this week and next.
Three of the four semifinalists hail from the Northeast quadrant of the country. Leading the way is reigning national champion Endicott College (Beverly, Mass.) in the East Region. The Gulls got a good push from Rugby Northeast champ Colby College in the quarterfinals but ultimately triumphed 27-12. Both Endicott and Colby handled their Round of 16 teams by big margins (see full bracket below).
The Upstate New York conference is sending its two representatives to Houston. Conference champ St. Bonaventure traveled to the South Region, started with a 55-12 win against East Stroudsburg and then put 48 points between itself and Lee Univ. in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Upstate New York runner-up SUNY Cortland traveled out to Elkhart, Ind., for the Midwest Region games. Both the Peace Frogs and Northern Michigan dominated their respective Round of 16 games Saturday, and then went toe to toe on Sunday. Cortland had the gas for a 36-27 win and returns to nationals.
Another conference runner-up also won its region. UW Platteville lost a one-point heart-breaker to Northern Michigan in the Great Waters final, and took that second seed to St. Louis. There, the team beat Mid-America’s Pittsburg State by 77 points on Saturday and then lined up against Wayne State College on Sunday. The Wildcats beat MSU Moorhead comfortably in the Round of 16 but fell to Platteville 44-10 in the quarterfinals.
SMALL COLLEGE SEMIFINALS – DEC 2
Endicott (Colonial Coast #1) vs. St. Bonaventure (Upstate NY #1)
SUNY Cortland (Upstate NY #1) vs. UW Platteville (Great Waters #2)
Just like Small College, one conference has double representation in the semifinals: Great Waters. The defending national champion, UW Eau Claire (read more), qualified through the Midwest Region and got a great push from Tri-State #3 Fairfield University in the Round of 16. Then it was almost lights out for Eau Claire in the quarterfinals, when Cincinnati, which had defeated Grand Valley State on Saturday, held a 10-7 lead with only minutes remaining. An emotional, last-minute try provided the Blugolds with the 12-10 win. Those are the kind of wins that breed belief (more to come).
Great Waters runner-up Illinois traveled south to the West Region and held off Bowling Green State 25-17 on Saturday. Regionals first-timer Louisiana State impressed the field with a 12-10 Round of 16 win against Colorado School of Mines, but Illinois triumphed 40-5 in the Sunday quarterfinals. Eager to talk to Illinois head coach Dani Hartt. At present, Illinois and UW Eau Claire are set to meet each other in the Dec. 2 semifinals.
The other semifinal features two teams with a lot of post-season history across this past decade. Vassar College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy represent two conferences that transferred to NCR this year, and while the Brewers have won the majority of the teams’ previous meetings, the Bears are looking strong this year (read more). The Coast Guard won arguably the toughest region in DII – the East – and started with a 48-17 win against Tri-State champion Columbia Univ. Roger Williams awaited on Sunday, and Coast Guard dug deep for the 43-25 quarterfinal win.
Vassar traveled to the South Region and just got by Coastal Carolinas 17-15 on Saturday. With lessons in place, the Brewers buckled down for Sunday and were rewarded with a 38-10 quarterfinal win against Temple. Vassar is the last CRAA DII Fall 15s Champion – a competition that ended after the 2022-23 season.
DII NATIONAL SEMIFINALS DEC 2
2 p.m CT Coast Guard (New England Wide #1) vs. Vassar (Tri-State #2)
4 p.m. CT UW Eau Claire (Great Waters #1) vs. Illinois (Great Waters #2)
Due to the number of teams and quarterfinal/semifinal setup for regionals, Division I will contest its national championship only in Houston. 2023 title winner Michigan is returning to AVEVA, as is Notre Dame College, but both teams got the pushes they needed to sharpen their performances for the Dec. 2 final.
On Friday, Michigan scored three-straight tries against Southern Nazarene to kick off the quarterfinals, and then the Bolts started chipping away, scoring two tries of their own before the break. The second half was a battle but Michigan held off the much improved Oklahoma team in a 30-20 decision.
Sunday was equally as tough, as Northern Iowa was riding high from its big 53-24 win against Virginia Tech on Friday. One converted try separated the semifinalists, 22-15, and Michigan is back in Houston. Stay tuned for incoming Jamie Frech interview.
Vanessa Marsh is also on the interview lineup, as Notre Dame College’s new head coach extended the Falcons’ post-season tradition. The Ohio team knocked off Midwest #2 Iowa State 44-20 in the semifinals and then put two converted tries between itself and Indiana, 27-13, in the semifinals. The Redstorm advanced after beating Virginia 31-15 in the quarterfinals.
DI NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Dec. 2 @ 6 p.m. CT
Michigan vs. Notre Dame College