slide 1

NOTE: Only paying subscribers have access to locked content. LEARN MORE.

NIRA Round 1: A Week of Firsts

  • 05 Sep 2023
NCAA rugby

That National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) opened up its 2023 season on Friday, Sept. 1., with a full slate of Division I matches across the weekend. There was activity at the Division II, Division III and provisional levels, but only DI held official NCAA varsity 15s matches.

Queens Univ. of Charlotte (1-0) and the U.S. Naval Academy (0-1) played their first varsity 15s matches in Division I. While Queens won Division II in 2022, the entire athletics department transitioned to DI. In other words, the Royals weren’t promoted into DI because they won DII last year; Queens as an institution elevated to DI. Similarly, Navy won the 2022 CRAA fall 15s championship, but that victory had nothing to do with the Midshipmen’s debut in NIRA this fall.

Both teams took their shots at goal when they had the opportunity. USA U20s’ Maddie Hughes put Queens up 3-0 after three minutes, and then Maggie Sweeney scored eight minutes later (8-0). Navy responded with two Abby Hershner penalty kicks in the second 20 and trailed the Royals 8-6 into the break. Kayla Hoch and Jada Medellin scored back-to-back tries for the North Carolina side, and with Hughes’ conversion, the team led 20-6 after 55 minutes.


But Navy was far from defeated and Charlotte D’Halluin scored two tries in 12 minutes. Hershner’s conversion made it 20-18 with seven minutes to play. Queens put the game out of reach with a converted try in the final five minutes, 27-18, for the program’s first DI victory.

“With two new assistant coaches and a jump to Division I, we’ve thrown a lot at our athletes the past two weeks, and it was really encouraging to see them put that work into action,” Queens head coach Dana Meschisi told Queens Athletics. “Most of our matches from here out are against new opponents and we’re ready to rise to that challenge. It’s exciting to get our first Division I win in week one, now it’s on us to continue to build week by week and continue that trend.”

Long Island University also banked its first-ever DI 15s victory, defeating Mount St. Mary’s University 18-0 in Brookville, N.Y. Read more from LIU head coach Joey Rasmus, who talks about an intelligent, gritty team that held onto a shutout with 13 players on the pitch.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by LIU Women’s Rugby (@liurugby)

In nearby Connecticut, Sacred Heart University won its first DI 15s match against the U.S. Military Academy (Army), 31-7, under the lights. Head coach Michelle Reed talks about the steady, deliberate build since 2015, and how successes have drawn the right personnel to the Pioneers: Read more.

Three of the four Ivy League teams contested their first DI conference matches of the season. Brown Univ. hosted Princeton Univ. on the Berylson Family Fields and blanked the Tigers 88-0. USA U20 Akilah Cathey led all point scorers with 20 on four tries, while Kendall Cunningham knocked over nine conversions for 18 points. Noelle Lewis also had a multi-try day with three scores. The Bears head to Sacred Heart this Saturday for an 11 a.m. ET kickoff.

2022 DI runner-up Harvard Univ. put down five tries in the first 40 minutes against Quinnipiac Univ., and Chloe Headland’s precision off the tee gave the Crimson a 35-0 halftime lead. Harvard eventually held a 55-0 lead, getting tries from sophomores Cam Fields (3), Tiahna Padilla (2) and Lennox London – all of whom featured in the USA age grades this summer. Junior Reese Morgan – a Canadian age grade star – also scored, as did Headland, who led the team with 20 points on a try and 15 points off the boot. Quinnipiac snapped the shutout in the final 10 minutes, putting Hannah Pfersch and USA U23 player Anna Van Dyk away for tries. Fódhla Ní Bhraonáin converted both for the 55-14 final.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Harvard Womens Rugby (@harvardwrugby)

In non-conference action, Dartmouth College traveled to DI Elite Penn State and posted a 79-0 statement win. West Coasters Simone Bautista and Asia Meni scored three tries apiece, and freshmen Cindy Taulava, Hehea Pulotu and Paola Arredondo-Almeida scored their first tries in the Big Green kit. Senior Abby Kayser kicked five conversions for 10 points. Dartmouth will play its first conference match on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET) at Army.

In Division II, 2022 runner-up Davenport University scrimmaged NCR DII Grand Valley State (Mich.) in a 41-0 win, and will play another non-conference match at DIII Adrian College (Mich.) on Friday. The Bulldogs were also active last Friday, taking on the relatively local Univ. Michigan at home. The NCR DI champion won 46-21.


DII Lander University hosted the DI conference match between Queens and Navy, and also played their JV teams in abbreviated matches. Lander played two 20-minute periods against Navy JV (and won 12-0), and then another 40-minute set against Queens JV (and won 20-7). Freshman flanker Alli Davis and sophomore center Alexis Dallas scored two tries apiece to lead all point scorers. The Bearcats are scheduled to host a provisional division tournament on Sunday.

Finally, DIII Norwich University hosted a jamboree that featured the Cadets, Univ. New England, and provisional division teams Castleton and New England College. Details are elusive, but UNE beat Norwich 7-0 and a combination squad 7-0.


* Records depict conference matches only

Brown (1-0) @ Sacred Heart (1-0) 11am ET
Dartmouth (0-0) @ Army (0-1)
Mount St. Mary’s (0-1) @ Princeton (0-1)
Long Island (1-0) @ Quinnipiac (0-1)

AIC DII @ Harvard DI (Fri)
West Chester DII @ Navy DI WATCH @ 12pm ET
Davenport DII @ Adrian DIII
New England DIII @ New Haven DII
Bowdoin DIII v Frostburg St DII
SARC U23s @ Queens DI
Blue Ridge 7s tournament @ Warren Wilson
Lander Univ 7s (prov)

Article Categories:

All Comments

Leave a Reply