32 teams, men’s and women’s, convened at four regional sites Saturday and Sunday to try and play their way into the Midwest semifinals.
On the men’s side, all ranked teams advanced. Top-ranked UW-Whitewater, defending national champ, was dominant in the rounds of 16 and 8 in Urbana, Ill. The Warhawks waxed Loyola 124-10 Saturday and St. Cloud 41-0 Sunday. The Minnesota champs beat Southern Illinois 31-0 to reach the quarterfinals.
No. 8 Northern Illinois was also impressive on the weekend, crushing Grand Valley State 36-8 Saturday and Central Michigan 50-15. Given that GVSU was the third seed out of Michigan and Central the Michigan champ, it would seem the Huskies grew stronger overnight.
Awaiting the Huskies in one semifinal are the Bobcats of Ohio, who won a pair of close games – 13-12 over Pittsburgh on Saturday and 22-10 over West Virginia on Sunday – in Allendale, Mich.
Pairing off with Whitewater in the other semifinal is 16th-ranked UW-Milwaukee, who finished second to the Warhawks in LAU play. Whitewater defeated Milwaukee 39-7 in the regular season. It was, however, Milwaukee’s only loss and a one-score game at halftime, giving Whitewater what was likely its toughest test since the 2011 national championship game. Milwaukee beat Illinois State 39-17 Saturday and North Dakota State 26-22 Sunday.
On the women’s side, 2011 semifinalist Winona State and defending Midwest champ UW-Lacrosse return to the final four.
Winona does so with a 22-17 win over UW-Eau Claire in the Round of 16 and a 33-0 defeat of Minnesota-Mankato in the Rochester, Minn. quarterfinal. Winona will meet Grand Valley State in the semis after GVSU pounded Ball Stat 92-0 on Saturday and slipped past Slippery Rock 10-5 Sunday in Allendale, Mich.
UW-La Crosse didn’t concede a single point on the weekend, beating Northern Illinois 17-0 and Illinois State 73-0 in Urbana, Ill. Pittsburgh now faces the unsavoury task of trying to knock off the champs in the other semifinal. If their ability to score is in question, consider the 46-0 drubbing they delivered to Bowling Green Saturday and the 33-5 win over IUP Sunday in Trafford, Pa.
Sunday scores Men N. Illinois 50-15 C. Michigan Whitewater 41-0 St. Cloud Milwaukee 26-22 N. Dakota St. Ohio 22-10 W. Virginia Women GVSU 10-5 Slippery Rock Pitt 33-5 IUP Winona St. 33-0 Mankato UW-Lacrosse 73-0 Illinois St.
Saturday scores Men St. Cloud 31-0 So. Illinois Northern Illinois 29-8 GVSU Cent. Mich. 30-15 Xavier UW-Whitewater 124-10 Loyola North Dakota 35-17 Platteville Milwaukee 39-17 Illinois State Ohio 13-12 Pitt West Virginia 24-5 Michigan Women Mankato 30-12 Platteville Winona 22-17 Eau Claire GVSU 92-0 Ball State Slippery Rock 35-14 Loyola IUP 22-10 Denison Pitt 46-0 Bowling Green Illinois St. 19-17 St. Benedict La Crosse 17-0 N. Illinois
N. Illinois (with ball) and Loyola represent CARFU this weekend.
The Midwest DII college round of 16 kicks off Saturday in four different locations, with the round of eight to follow on Sunday. The winner of each regional site advances to the Midwest semifinals Nov. 11.
The heaviest favorite to reach the semifinals is UW-Whitewater, defending DII national champion. The Warhawks face Loyola, the second seed out of the Chicago Area RFU, in the round of 16 in Urbana, Ill.
“They’re a good solid team,” said Whitewater coach Pat O’Connor of Loyola, “but I think we’ve got the tools to control the game, at least that’s what we’re going in with.”
How does this year’s Whitewater squad stack up next to the 2011 national championship team?
“I think they compare favorably with last year’s team,” said O’Connor, despite losing six starters to graduation. “Even though we’ve made the changes, the folks who came in are playing at the same level, and we were just talking about it, we feel that we’re a little bit ahead of last year as far as our capabilities.”
Squaring off in the other Urbana game Saturday are Southern Illinois, top seed out of Illinois, and St. Cloud, the second seed out of Minnesota.
In Trafford, Pa., Ohio is one of four teams trying to advance past this weekend. The Bobcats are the top seed out of the Ohio union. They’ve not lost a league game all season, as they sit 4-0-1 after a tie with Xavier. Ohio draws Pitt (Allegheny 1) Saturday, and with a win, the Bobcats will play either Michigan (Michigan 2) or West Virginia (Allegheny 2) Sunday.
Ohio hasn’t played any of these teams in recent memory, but Bobcat coach Willie Griffes isn’t worrying about the unknown.
“I’m much more concerned about my own team,” he said. “We know we’re going to have to play a complete 80 minutes to come out on top against (Pitt)."
Ninth-ranked Northern Illinois headlines the Allendale, Mich. region, in which the Huskies play Grand Valley State (Michigan 3) and Xavier (Ohio 2) plays Central Michigan (Michigan 1) Saturday.
Northern Illinois hasn’t had much in the way of tight games, scoring 106, 87, 85, 72 and 63 points in league play this fall. If the Huskies are going to advance to nationals, they’ll have to do something they haven’t done all season – win a close game late in the second half.
“What makes our team a quality team is the young guys know there’s going to be tougher opponents to face in the playoffs,” said NIU player/coach Ryan Dertinger.
“We’ve been preaching over the last solid month that a good team doesn’t have to win by 100 points, 50 points. A good team will win those one-point games, and that’s the difference. Look at the World Cup. It was a one point game.”
In Rochester, Minn., North Dakota State is the only undefeated team, having won the Minnesota union with a 4-0-1 record. NDSU draws UW-Platteville (Wisconsin 3) Saturday. Also in Rochester are UW-Milwaukee, who pushed Whitewater to a 10-7 halftime score earlier this season, and Illinois State (Illinois 2).
The know and the unknown meet in a mysterious venue as Bentley University of Waltham, Mass. takes on American International College of Springfield.
Both teams are 2-0 in the new Rugby Northeast league – Bentley is an established DII contender, while AIC is still relatively new on the scene. Both teams are also very different in the way they play.
Coming off a big win over St. Michael’s, Bentley Head Coach Josh Smith was pleased to see his team rack up 55 points through nine different try-scorers.
"Our boys really punished St Mikes off mistakes and turnovers, but we are still a work in progress," warned Smith. “AIC is a talented team and they have some money to work with.”
It’s AIC who will want to spread the field and look for a high-scoring match, while Bentley will want to slow things down.
“We will need to use our forwards to control things at the breakdown and make them attack from far out,” said Smithy. “Our guys need to use their experience to control the game.”
The game will be played at AIC’s home field, a multi-purpose turf field and stadium, which is used by all the sports teams. The Yellow Jackets draw more fans for their rugby games than they do for their football team, and Saturday night’s match under the lights promises quite an atmosphere.
“We’re able to use the scoreboard and PA system,” said AIC Head Coach Josh Macy. “We’ll have the national anthem and player introductions. Home rugby matches are big events on campus.”
AIC plays a wide open, run and gun game that uses some impressive pace on the outside. Turnovers and sloppy kicking can turn into five points very quickly for them.
Central for AIC’s attack it their 8-9-10 triumverat of Colin Bartolomeo, Jordan Schmitz (both products of the Glendale, Colo. U19 program) and South African flyhalf Duke Makina.
Makina isn’t a traditional flyhalf, as he’s a big load of a player who thunders through tackles, but he has learned the art of controlling the offense, and has plenty of athleticism to work with.
“We build through the middle and send things through them,” said Macy. “But it’s important that everyone the team gets a touch. Everybody is expected to perform with ball in hand.”
AIC lost 17-16 in a preseason match against DI-AA Harvard in September, and that last-second loss fueled in their opening matches. But this is a true test.
“That Harvard loss was a good learning experience for us,” Macy said. “And we’re always looking for those benchmarks. Bentley will be another one.”
“The atmosphere is going to be great,” added Smith. “They get massive crowds. It can be intimidating for players who aren’t used to it, but we’d talked about it and the guys will be ready.”
Notes: Bentley and AIC may be relative newcomers to the upper-echelon of DII college rugby, but the institutions have been around a long time. AIC was founded in 1885, Bentley in 1917. Both teams have had freshmen jump into starting and starring roles early this season. Currently in Rugby Northeast play, Bentley is 2-0, with a +85, AIC 2-0 and +80.
Videos of Bentley v. St. Michael's and AIC v. Providence.
There are a slew of weight-bearing games in DII this weekend, with a pair of ranked matchups.
The most intriguing pits No. 20 Saint Louis University against second-ranked Lindenwood. The Lions’ score lines indicate they’ve gone untested this season, despite playing a pair of DII men’s clubs and a pair of D1-AA teams.
If SLU, defending West champs, can hold Lindenwood to, say, 40 points, then perhaps a chink will appear in the Lions’ armor.
The other ranked match features Northern Colorado and the Colorado School of the Mines. UNC has owned this matchup lately, and though we at RUGBYMag have caught some flack for ranking Mines, their recent demolition of New Mexico warrants some attention.
The Eastern Rockies have just one bid to the West playoffs, so this match will go a long way in determining either team’s spring.
There are a few games that only become big if an upset happens, like if No. 8 Mary Washington falls to James Madison, Radford is felled by VMI or Utah Valley loses to Idaho State.
The upset most likely to happen? Probably Idaho State over Utah Valley. The Bengals were the only team to knock off the Wolverines last fall, and their talent is usually enough to keep them in most contests. Don’t sleep on James Madison, either.
Every week is a big week capable of an upset or two in New England. NERFU is probably the most competitive league, top to bottom, in the country.
No. 15 Coast Guard, No. 16 Boston and No. 17 URI are all 2-1, and though their opponents, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively, are a combined 2-6, none have a negative point differential of more than 19.
It’s hard to draw any early conclusions about how New England will shake out prior to the actual end of the season.
Slate of games #4 UNC vs. #13 Mines UNM vs. Mesa Holy Cross @ #17 URI #15 Coast Guard @ Maine #16 Boston @ UNH Norwich @ Vermont #14 UNCW vs. Elon Idaho State vs. #5 UVU #8 Mary Washington vs. James Madison #21 Radford vs. VMI UW Stevens Point vs. Marquette #1 UW Whitewater vs. N. Michigan UW Lacrosse vs. #18 UW Milwaukee St. Johns vs. Mankato St. Cloud vs. Winona Minn. Duluth vs. NDSU #20 SLU vs. #2 Lindenwood #7 Towson vs. St. Mary's #22 Georgetown vs. Catholic Hofstra vs. #23 Marist Sacred Heart vs. #25 William Paterson New Paltz vs. Fairfield Vassar vs. Seton Hall
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