The USA Club Rugby 15s season will end this Sunday, June 4, when five senior divisions name their respective champions in St. Charles, Mo. For the women’s Division I competition, the semifinals take place Friday, June 2, and the victors advance to the Sunday title match. All games will be live-streamed on USA Club Rugby’s YouTube channel.
The women’s DI semifinals kick off at 1 p.m. CDT on field 1, as two-time reigning national champion NOVA faces Midwest champion Metropolis Valkyries. NOVA has good, recent experience at this stage of the post-season, but that’s not to say the Virginia club was comfortable in its build to 2023 nationals. A reduced matrix schedule spread across the same timeframe made it difficult to sustain momentum, and the Atlantic Super Regional Championship occurred April 29-30 – more than a month before the national championship. NOVA head coach Frederic Bardot gets into some of those challenges. That said, the top-notch leadership of captains Katie Lutton in the pack and Emily Fulbrook in the back three has kept NOVA steady and focused on a third title. Read more.
Metropolis was the first DI team to book its spot in the national semifinals, as it won the Midwest, and thus Northern Super Region, back in November 2022. Valkyries captains Libby Berg and Stephanie Alliev talk about the fall. The Minnesota team then had the freedom to build out its spring with a training camp and tours, and played competitive friendlies against teams like the Colorado Gray Wolves, Denver Black Ice, Chicago Lions and Midwest Thunderbirds. The Valkyries were last on the pitch May 20, allowing for two weeks of recovery before game day.
At 3 p.m. CDT on field 2, Pacific champ San Diego and Red River/Frontier champ Houston Athletic (sHARC) do battle in the second DI semifinal. Their routes to the national semifinals are pretty different, but interesting nonetheless.
The Surfers are in the process of rebuilding, having dropped its Women’s Premier League team in lieu of a touring squad (which had its originally planned games canceled this spring) and a playoffs-eligible Division I team. Read more from Ashley Torrecillas and Julia Buescher. San Diego went undefeated en route to the SoCal/Southwest title and then defeated Seattle 59-24 for the Pacific berth to the national semifinals. That roster featured players with WPL experience (including Torrecillas, Buescher, Alexa Scott, Tia Blythe, Cathy Cai and Teigan MacDonald), but they didn’t comprise the majority of the 29 players who traveled to Las Vegas for the mid-May super regionals.
Houston Athletic also switched up regular operations this season and added a DII side to its club offerings. Head coach Paul Graham talked about the developmental benefits of two teams – for players and coaches – and the impact of the Red River/Frontier-winning season. The national semifinal is the farthest point to which sHARC has ever advanced, and the coach partially credited this achievement to a heart-breaking loss in 2022. Last year, Houston was leading the Colorado Gray Wolves until the final minutes of the league championship, only to lose by one point. The team learned about mental fortitude and applied those lessons to the 2023 championship season.
The two semifinal victors will advance to the DI championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Field 1. There will be no 3rd place game.
Stay tuned for the DII preview …
DI NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
All Times CST
FRIDAY JUNE 2
Division I Semifinals
1 p.m. CST Metropolis vs. NOVA
Field 1 Livestream
3 p.m. San Diego vs. Houston
Field 2 Livestream
SUNDAY JUNE 4
1 p.m. DI Final
Field 1 Livestream