slide 1
slide 1

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

Spring College Playoffs: DII West

  • 18 Apr 2019
  • 62 Views

The USA Rugby DII College Spring Championship was supposed to start with a Round of 16, but 12 teams were able to commit. Two of the four pools include four teams, and the lone western group is arguably the toughest.

RELATED: See the brackets

Two of last year’s top-four teams are competing at UC Irvine this Friday-Saturday, April 19-20: Claremont and Fresno State. They repeated as the Pacific Desert and West Coast conference champions, respectively, and are thus favored in their first-round games.

CLAREMONT VS. SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE

Claremont finished second to Tulane last year and went relatively unchecked en route to the Pacific Desert title. The Foxes wrapped up their SoCal season on March 9, and while that time might have aided rehabbing players (Dana Alimena among the most important), it’s also a long time to be off of the pitch. So the big question here will be whether healthy bodies and training-refined players will outweigh the momentum of a properly building season.

Player to watch? Ali Parker. She moved up from fullback to flyhalf, and is owning that crucial position and still finding her way onto the scoreboard. Read this TRB-supplied article for FloRugby, as coach Evan Wollen digs into the roster.

Saint Mary’s College enjoyed a natural build through the season, but experienced a little dip at the end. The Gaels entered the West Coast playoffs as the top seed, and led eventual champions Fresno State after the first half of the final. But then momentum shifted and the Bulldogs took home the 50-21 win and title.

With that said, the Gaels are enjoying a special year, as long-time players who helped turn the team around four years ago want to push the team to a program high. No. 8 Christina Tomelloso is the difference-maker, and she rumbles forward with the likes of Tangi Latu and Andrea Zaragoza. Maddie Lane and Jill Eicher connect well as halfbacks, and Ashley Torrecillas is lights-out at outside center.

The SMC forwards might have the edge in size, but during the West Coast playoffs, that advantage was felt more in the open field than in the scrum. Both teams like to play wide, so here’s hoping for a fast-moving Round of 16 match Friday.

FRESNO STATE VS. LONG BEACH STATE

Long Beach always brings a physical, hard-thumping game, but the 49ers biggest limitation is its numbers. The team fielded, tops, 16 players during the season, and the intensity of the playoffs requires deep benches that keep the pace of play high for 80 minutes. We’ve seen teams ride that adrenaline and survive day one, but rarely on day two.

With that said, the 49ers know how to score, and during its last outing – a 76-7 win over UC Irvine – veterans like flyhalf and kicker Mikaela Solorzano and wing Jamie Conlon, and newcomers like flanker Sydney Moreno and fullback Taytum Still found the try zone multiple times.

For Fresno State, the key will be starting the game with some fervor. The Bulldogs proved that they can play under pressure and rally from a first-half deficit – they had to do so against SMC and UN Reno during playoffs – but if they can play with urgency earlier in the game, then that will only help their cause.

Captain Raquel Macias is the leader and not only directs the flow from scrumhalf but is very plucky and quick over the ball on defense. No. 8 Megan Oleski is the go-forward force in the pack, and the back line is pretty special. There’s great striking and finishing potential in Averi Peterson, Laura Ellison-Seeger, Chetna Kumar-Naicker and Meaghan Gallagher, and they’re all really fun ballcarriers.

Article Categories:
COLLEGE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.