Collegiate ranking will be difficult in the near future, with ACRA teams contesting their entire seasons in the fall and switching to 7s in the spring. But of the Top 20 Women's DI Colleges below, 12 are still competing toward USA Rugby's championship, and there are several spring matrix teams looking to leap off the watch list (Virginia Women's Rugby chief among them).
In the top five, we ranked American International College and Northern Iowa higher than we ever have, and that's because they both had special years. In its first DI season, AIC gave eventual ACRA champion Norwich two of its best games of the year, including a 19-15 barn-burner in the quarterfinals. Carefully crafted by coach Mel Denham, the Yellow Jackets executed an effective pressure defense that challenged the Cadets' wide-open game. UNI also pushed Norwich to its boundaries during the semifinals. The Panthers cruised through playoffs until that point, but showcased an excellent, experienced team led by All Americans like Megan Flanigan, Crystal Nye and Becca Brown during the Final Four.
Conversely, Women's Cougar Rugby (BYU) is ranked the lowest we've seen in years, and that is a function of the lowered age limits for LDS missions. The Cougars were quite inexperienced when they lost to New Mexico early in the Pacific Mountain Conference East season, but it was enough to forfeit the conference title. BYU has been working hard to get all of the young and crossover athletes up to speed, including showings at the Las Vegas Invitational.
The rest of the PMC has endured some shake-up as well. The North split in two when Washington State and Washington joined the DI ranks. The new North contains the Washington and Oregon schools, and WSU is the undisputed leader. The Cougars played its closest game game against Oregon last weekend for a 36-24 victory. The PMC West contains undefeated Stanford, Cal, UC Davis and Chico State. As per usual, the race is for second-best, and UC Davis appears to be the front-runner for that spot thus far.
The PMC South has been chaotic and no clear leader has been established. But teams in Southern California and Arizona have to play two-game weekends, and that strain is certainly reflected in the results. We think UC San Diego has the most promise.
Also making the cut is Texas Tech, which is the only undefeated team in the Southwest conference. There are only three teams, however, and Texas (2-1) still has a shot at nabbing the title. When the two faced each other in the fall, only five points separated them, and the March 8 re-match will be winner-takes-all.
There are a few Mason Dixon teams - West Chester, North Carolina - on the list, and there could very easily be more in the coming weeks. UVA is hosting its annual invitational this weekend, and Indiana and DII's George Washington will mix up the Mid-Atlantic field. Right now, UVA is number 21 on our list, but we know that won't last for long, especially after returning home with a Mardi Gras Tournament title. Also just outside the top 20 are Ohio State, Central Florida, Texas and Georgia Tech.
The rankings will update every two weeks, so stay tuned.
Women DI College Top 20 - Feb. 26, 2014
1. Penn State (7-0) Idle. Won Big Ten Conference in fall.
2. Norwich (11-0) Idle. Won ACRA and USA Rugby College 7s titles in fall
3. Stanford (3-0) Defeated Cal twice and UC Davis 169-29
4. American Int'l College (5-2) Idle. Gave Norwich the best two games of their season; lost 19-15 in ACRA quarterfinals
5. Northern Iowa (8-1) Idle. Finished 3rd at ACRA championship; played Norwich to a 43-30 loss in semis
6. Army (7-2) Idle. Finished 2nd at ACRA championship; lost 32-15 to Norwich in final
7. New Mexico (4-0) Idle. Won Pacific Mountain East; definitive win was 29-17 against BYU
8. Women's Cougar Rugby (3-1) Idle. Lost to New Mexico 29-17 early; finished 2nd in PMC East
9. Navy (2-2) (6-2) Lost to Army 56-12 in ACRA semis, 32-15 in 3rd place game
10. Indiana (6-1) Idle. Finished second in Big Ten, lost 28-10 to Penn State
11. Harvard (4-1) Idle. Won Ivy League; defeated Brown 31-5 in semis, Dartmouth 29-0 in final
12. Quinnipiac (6-1) Idle. Lost to Navy 28-5 in ACRA quarterfinals
13. Washington State (4-0) Leading PMC North, closest game was 36-24 win over Oregon last weekend
14. Dartmouth (4-1) Idle. Finished 2nd in Ivy League; defeated Princeton 12-10 in semis, lost 29-0 to Harvard in final
15. North Carolina (2-0) Defeated UVA 21-17, Virginia Tech 40-26
16. Brown (2-4) Idle. Finished 3rd in Ivy League; lost 31-5 to Harvard in semis, defeated Princeton 26-12 in consolation
17. West Chester (4-0) Idle. Won the North division of Mason Dixon
18. UC Davis (1-2) Split games with Chico, winning last weekend 31-10; lost to Stanford 19-5
19. Texas Tech (3-0) Leading Southwest after 22-0 win over Texas A&M
20. UC San Diego (3-2) Leading PMC South but split games last weekend: 34-12 win v Arizona, 26-10 loss to Arizona State