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Omitted NIT Teams Find Fault in Selections PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions
Written by Jackie Finlan   
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:51

For the last four years, teams had to play-in to the Girls High School/U19 National Championship, but 2012 marked the return to an invitational (the competition’s format from 1999-2007). This year’s teams had to apply for entry into the tournament, and not only had to prove their history of success on the field but also their financial aptitude. The goal was to get the best eight teams in the country competing, regardless of territorial seeds, and also alleviate the financial pressure of a late berth to nationals. But as with any new system, it was met with some resistance.

Mother Lode (maroon) defeated the Sacramento Amazons in an early-season friendly, but it was enough for an NIT invite.

Six of the eight teams invited competed in the 2011 NIT and at least one other recent tournament. The 7th and 8th place teams – New York and Sebastian River (Fla.) – were replaced by Catholic Memorial (Wisc.) and Downingtown (Pa.).

First, the obvious choices: Fallbrook High School (San Diego) and Sacramento Amazons. The two California teams have been finalists the previous two years, splitting titles. Divine Savior (Wisc.) won the previous six NITs and finished 3rd the last two tournaments. Kent (Wash.) also has a slew of NIT appearances and always gives the top teams a run for their money.

Lakewood could easily find itself in a top-four spot, having lost to Kent by a point in last year’s first round, and with multiple NIT trips under their belt. West Carroll, too, has been MARFU’s best team the last couple of years and finished only two points shy of Lakewood for sixth.

Those six teams’ invitations are difficult to dispute and all rightfully deserve their spot at nationals. But when it came to filling out the roster, the National High School Invitational Committee chose to double up in Wisconsin and Eastern Pennsylvania. Representing the girls’ division was Marin Pinnell (Fallbrook), John Klein (DSHA), Bryn Chivers (USA U20 WNT) and Brad Rockwood (West Carroll).

“The applications were each evaluated, the references contacted and each team was contacted to discuss their structure, strength and history,” USA Rugby Director of Youth and High School Rugby Kurt Weaver explained. “The goal is to get the eight teams that most deserve to be there from the applicants involved. The evaluation process went off the applications and prior national tournaments, prior state tournaments and prior play.

“The applications for those two teams [Catholic Memorial and Downingtown] and the other six were stronger than the other applications,” Weaver continued. “Both New York and Sebastian River applied, but were not as strong applicants.”

Sources close to the committee say that the debate over those final two teams was probably the most spirited discussion of any of the three championships, including the boys’ high school and U19 divisions. Some were pushing hard for a second tier to ensure the right eight were picked at the top, and that might happen in 2013, but USA Rugby had already made plans for 2012 which precluded extra teams.

The good intentions are there, but the new process does take that wild-card factor out of the tournament. There’s no rewarding an up-and-coming team until they prove their worth.

“I feel like this system is a bit bogus,” New York coach Molly Dengler said. “I understand it because I realize that USA Rugby is a bit of an organizational mess these days, but try explaining that to the girls. It simply doesn't make sense that no matter how well you perform in your season and at the State Championships that there is no way to go farther now. I hope that this new system is only temporary, while the SBROs come together to provide another, more fair way of qualifying for nationals. It places unnecessary limits on new up-and-coming clubs that cannot prove longevity of success. Let's take the San Diego Surfers in the WPL as an example. The WPL structure made it possible for them to come in to the WPL and get the #1 seed in the conference going into nationals based on their stellar first season. Shouldn't this be a model for more national playoffs?”

Dengler admitted that her team would have had a difficult time affording the trip even if it had been invited to nationals. Additionally, New York’s league schedule all but disappeared once the SBRO, Rugby New York, eliminated New Jersey teams from their spring lineup. New York struggled on the national stage last year and could have used another league to develop their talent. Dengler suspected that the aforementioned factors played a big role in why New York was omitted.

But having healthy competition and winning history within one’s SBRO isn’t necessarily a boon as far as nationals are concerned. Take Tennessee, for example. Even if two-time state champion Ravenwood applied for this year’s NIT, they wouldn’t have been able to attend as the USA Rugby championship is scheduled on the same weekend as states. Rugby Colorado’s Summit High School, arguably the best team in the country under coach Karl Barth’s direction, also didn’t apply for the NIT, and likely never will since rugby is sequestered to one season (fall) the way most high school sports operate. In general, the NIT occurs too early (mid May) for high school sports to participate, and more coordination between USAR and SBROs is needed in order to expand the competition.

If the competition could expand to 16 teams, then room would open for squads like Mother Lode. One of the top two teams in the competitive Sacramento Valley region, Mother Lode was denied entry into this year’s NIT.

“On February 4 we had a game with the Amazons and Mother Lode won 24 to 10,” Mother Lode Ron Chance said. “We still did not receive an invitation and my girls are crushed. I understand the Amazons deserve an invitation because they were last year's runner-up. I'm disappointed the new selection process is not about getting the best teams at nationals and still mired with politics.

“I'm extremely disappointed,” Chance continued. “We are clearly one of the best teams in the country. It is unfortunate we have the annual national champion or runner-up, Amazons, in the same town. I was under the impression that the new invitation policy was set up specifically to address this situation.”

Even if Mother Lode beats the Amazons in their regular season match at the end of the month, or even at the league championships, there’s no guarantee into next year’s tournament, but that’s how the excluded teams must view their current seasons – as fodder for next year’s application.

OTC Diary: Guyana Scrimmage No. 1 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Pat Clifton   
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:34

Pat Clifton is on the ground at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He caught the Eagles scrimmage with Guyana earlier today.

OTC Diary, Photo Gallery PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Pat Clifton   
Monday, 12 March 2012 21:15

Pat Clifton is on the ground at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Monday and Tuesday to check in on the team as it prepares for Hong Kong and the four remaining IRB World Series tournaments.

D1-A Rankings Mar 12, 2012 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Rankings - RUGBYMag Premier
Written by RUGBYMag Staff   
Monday, 12 March 2012 20:05

The latest D1-A Top 20 features one big change ...

HS Single-School Boys Rankings March 12 2012 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Rankings - RUGBYMag Premier
Written by RUGBYMag Staff   
Monday, 12 March 2012 19:03

Finally we are back ranking the High School teams in the USA.

Glendale-KC Tie a Good Thing? PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Sunday, 11 March 2012 23:26

Ties can be welcomed differently in different locker rooms.

New-Look Offensive Approach for Eagle 7s PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Sunday, 11 March 2012 22:39

You will see a different Eagle 7s team when the USA plays in Hong Kong.

GoffonRugby: Getting to the Eagle's Heights PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions
Written by Alex Goff   
Friday, 09 March 2012 19:22

Alex Goff uses a geological metaphor to explain some of the challenges facing USA Rugby a the Elite Level, and one move that the organization should make.

Barbarians Enter New Phase with Investor PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 18:44

The Denver Barbarians have signed on with an investor who has essentially bought the club and changed the business model for the entire organization.

Life, Dallas Handling Changes PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Scouting Reports
Written by Alex Goff   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 17:47

Both the Dallas Harlequins and Life University have some changes to manage as they open their Super League season this weekend.

Big News on Utah, Super League PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Pat Clifton and Alex Goff   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 15:31

Will the Warriors play in the Super League this season?'s Women's College Player of the Week PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Profiles and Interviews
Written by Jackie Finlan   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 12:05

UC Santa Barbara played in a thriller last weekend against UC San Diego. Throughout the match, UCSB either led by a try or were tied with UCSD, a team that has attended the last few women’s DI championships. With five minutes to go, UCSD scored a try to even it up, and then Santa Barbara answered with a minute left on the clock. It all came down to a difficult conversion, which No. 8 cum flyhalf Kristine Sommer nailed for the game-ending points and victory, 21-19.

UCSB's Sommer nails the game-winning conversion to beat UC San Diego.
Sommer, center, embraces teammates during her final year with UCSB.

Sommer’s poise in those waning minutes was enough for UCSB coach Kevin Battle to nominate his halfback as’s Player of the Week, but it’s been the 21-year-old captain’s continual leadership and devotion to the team that solidified the need for recognition.

Sommer began her career as a back, but then an injury-plagued pack forced the 5’9”, 155 lb. center into the second row her junior year. The new lock was coming off her first season playing with the Southern California Griffins, but repeating that all-star appearance took a back seat when Sommer broke her ankle last year. A devastating turn of events for the up-and-comer trickled through the ranks.

Santa Barbara struggled to be competitive last season, but the team kept their heads up for the 2011-12 season. Sommer returned to the squad as the starting No. 8 but then assumed flyhalf when injuries left the important position open.

“Coming back in my last year, I was delighted to play 8 and really get into that forward mentality,” Sommer said.  “Switching positions, I felt that I had the ball skill, but my main problem was going to be to switch back to the back mentality.  I had to force myself not to get into every ruck. It was difficult, but I seemed to manage it alright.”

UCSB showed early that it had the potential to rival the top teams in the league when they defeated UC San Diego in their opener 17-5. Repeating the feat last weekend was exceptionally gratifying for the squad.

“We have worked really hard this season to be where we are now,” Sommer said of UCSB’s second-place standing in SoCal. “Coming from a hard season the previous year, when we were killed every game, we have really stepped it up.”

Which is why last weekend’s win against UC San Diego was so emotional.

“After that kick and the final whistle, myself and all of the seniors broke into tears,” Sommers said. “We could not believe that all of our weight training, 7 a.m. runs and practices finally paid off. It was an exhilarating experience that I will never forget.”

UCSB is on the verge of clinching their berth to playoffs, but must first defeat Arizona State this weekend. Even if UCSB loses, UC San Diego will have to earn a bonus-point win over undefeated league leader UCLA to even up on points; then it’ll come down to points differential.

A berth to playoffs would be a wonderful ending to Sommer’s four years with Santa Barbara, although she plans to continue her rugby career with the SoCal Griffins and has an eye toward the national team.

“I love the sport so much, and it is going to be really difficult to leave the family I have made these past four years,” Sommer said. “But I definitely do not want to end my rugby career just because I am graduating.”

Eagle Back Expected to Retire PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:59

Injuries force international to early decision.

Eagle Set to Land in Chicago PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 01:58

A national team player is looking to land with the Chicago Griffins.

Old NY Rivalry Starts Super League Season PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Scouting Reports
Written by Alex Goff   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 19:55

The 2012 Super League season starts, appropriately enough, with a longstanding rivalry.

Women DII College Top 25 - March 7, 2012 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Rankings - RUGBYMag Premier
Written by RUGBYMag Staff   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 17:10

Months have passed since the last women’s DII college rankings, including territorial championships the onset of fall-dormant leagues. With the inclusion of five previously unranked teams, we saw a bid adieu to an equal amount of teams.

Hilary Pletta has been a major force in Winona's rise to the top of the Midwest.

Making the biggest leap on the rankings is Winona. The Black Katts won the Midwest Championship by first defeating former DI Grand Valley State 32-26 in the semifinals, then topping Pittsburgh 31-10 in the final. The Panthers are still ranked ahead of Pittsburgh, and the two teams will have the opportunity to prove the rankings right or wrong at nationals when they see each other in the round of 16.

Unranked Vassar also breached the top 10 after finishing second at the Northeast Championship. They edged Rutgers 20-19 in the semifinals before dropping to Norwich (1) in the title match.

Texas A&M also joins the rankings after finishing second in Texas. Former DII Texas won the region, but not before ending their season with a 32-29 loss to A&M. The Aggies secured the DII bid to the West Championship with a 39-0 over Texas Tech. Wyoming is also the frontrunner for the Eastern Rockies bid to territorial playoffs, although they’ll have to first defeat Colorado College to make it official. But it’s looking good for Wyoming, which defeated Colorado-Mesa 22-0, a team that beat Colorado College 24-0 earlier in the season.

The South’s Appalachian State returns to the rankings after a lengthy sabbatical. They crushed league opponents 188-5, and knocked UNC Charlotte off the list with a 14-0 win. But should ASU meet Lee University in the South final, they’ll have their hands full. The only thing that might slow down Lee is the fact that their season has been riddled with bad weather and forfeits.

So who’s looking good? It’s hard not to favor Norwich to win it all this year. Aside from winning the Northeast Championship – again – the Cadets won the first-ever College 7s Championship in the fall, and looked really good in the process. Their fitness and physicality are the makings of a championship team, and our bets are on the New Hampshire squad.

We’re really looking forward to the Mid-Atlantic Championship. The EPRU was tight as always, and Shippensburg and Temple finished particularly strongly. George Washington is a perennial threat for a title grab and allowed 18 points all league season. GW did however lose 69-0 to Pittsburgh at the VWIT, and while nothing should be taken away from Pitt and their hefty pre-season build-up to nationals, we’re reluctant to overly punish GW for the tournament loss.

American International College could be a dark horse at nationals, as well. They won Rugby Northeast, but encountered some eligibility issues, so it’s unsure what kind of squad will be showing up at the first round. They haven’t been tested outside the small college sphere, but they have the talent to produce some upsets.

Out west, Humboldt and Arizona have put in solid seasons thus far. Humboldt defeated opponents 232-42 and have SF Bats left on the schedule. Although the latter are playing in a full league schedule, they aren’t yet eligible for playoffs, so Humboldt have sealed their berth to playoffs. They’ll come up against in the Pacific Coast semifinals when they see Western Washington, who second place finish in the Pacific Northwest was essentially determined in the fall when they lost to Washington State 17-12.

Arizona is one of three teams in Southern California with a 4-1 record, with CSU Fullerton and Cal State Northridge in close proximity. The Wildcats defeated CSUN 43-24 earlier in the season, and their 17-0 defeat to CSUF came during a double-header weekend when they were without their star and USA 7s player Amy Naber. With a full roster, we think Arizona will beat anyone in So Cal.

Stay tuned as the playoff picture works out in half the nation, while more pre-season play gives a better idea at how squads are shaping up.

Women DII College Top 25 - March 7, 2012
1 (1) Norwich (8-0). #1 in Northeast; won first USA Rugby College 7s Championship

2 (3) Shippensburg (9-0). Won the EPRU championship.

3 (4) Washington State (5-0). Defeated Western Washington 17-12.

4 (5) Western Washington (4-1). Lost to Washington State 17-12.

5 (unr) Winona (10-1). Won Midwest Championship by first defeating Grand Valley 32-26 in semis then Pittsburgh 31-10 in final.

6 (6) George Washington (5-0). Won MARFU’s Potomac region

7 (2) Grand Valley (10-1). Lost to Midwest champion Winona 32-26 in Midwest semis; defeated UW La Crosse for third. Defeated Notre Dame 68-7 in preseason friendly.

8 (unr) Vassar (6-3). Finished 2nd in Northeast, defeated Rutgers 20-19 in semis, lost to Norwich 46-0.

9 (7) Rutgers (8-1).Finished third in NRU after losing to Vassar 20-19 in semis and defeating Bowdoin 20-12 for 3rd.

10 (15) Temple (6-2). Lost 17-7 to Shippensburg in EPRU final.

11 (9) AIC (6-0-1). Won Rugby Northeast with a 47-0 win over St. Michael’s.

12 (10) Pittsburgh (9-1).Finished 2nd in Midwest after defeating UW La Crosse 27-10 in semis then losing 31-10 to Winona. Played at VWIT and defeated George Washington 69-0, tied UVA 12-12, lost to Navy 43-0

13 (unr) Texas A&M (2-2). Finished 2nd in Texas; defeated Texas 32-29 and Texas Tech 39-0 in last two rounds.

14 (19) Lee University (4-0). Defeated South Iris conference opponents 147-7, but actually bigger PD considering a couple of games were recorded as forfeit wins.

15 (17) Mary Washington (5-1). Taking 2nd VRU seed to MARFUs; played four friendlies in 2012, including wins over William & Mary (26-0) and Salisbury (39-25) and losses to DI James Madison (36-10) and George Washington (36-0)

16 (14) Delaware (6-2). Finished third at EPRU championship.

17 (22) Humboldt (4-0). Defeated league opponents 232-42 with one more game against also undefeated SF Bats.

18 (18) Bowdoin (7-3).Finished fourth in NRU after losses to Norwich in the semis and Rutgers (20-12) in the consolation match.

19 (8) UW La Crosse (7-2). Finished fourth in Midwest, losing to Pittsburgh and Grand Valley State

20 (25) Arizona (4-1). One of three teams at 4-1 in So Cal; earned first loss against CSU Fullerton 17-0 in a double header weekend.

21 (24) William & Mary (4-1). Top seed in MARFU’s VRU. No state championship so seeds determined on head-to-head, and not overall point differential during league.

22 (12) St. Michael's (5-2). Lost to AIC 47-0 in RNE final.

23 (unr) Appalachian State (4-0). Defeated UNC Charlotte 14-0 to win South's Dogwood conference.

24 (unr) Wyoming (4-0). Currently leading Eastern Rockies; defeated Colorado - Mesa (22-0), which defeated Colorado College (23) 24-0.

25 (20) Stonehill (3-2). Finished third in RNE but still a solid team.

DI-A Top 20 Mar 5 2012 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Rankings - RUGBYMag Premier
Written by Alex Goff   
Monday, 05 March 2012 23:06

The latest DI-A College Top 20 finally gets into some games and at least one upset to help us shuffle these teams.

New Orleans in a Place Not Many Go PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Monday, 05 March 2012 19:47

The New Orleans rugby club has engineered one of the most successful transitions from DII to DI, jumping from national DII champions in 2011 to an undefeated 6-0 record in the USA Rugby South DI  league.

Men DI Club Top 25 - March 5 2012 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Rankings - RUGBYMag Premier
Written by Alex Goff   
Monday, 05 March 2012 13:34

After a few games in the spring-centric leagues, we revisit the top 25 club teams in the nation.

Coach Talk: 1991 RWC Champion Coach Bob Dwyer - Part 2 PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Video and Audio
Written by RUGBYMag Staff   
Sunday, 04 March 2012 20:37

Bob Dwyer
Bruce McLane talks with Bob Dwyer, coaching guru and architect of Australia's 1991 World Cup-winning campaign. This is part two of Bruce's conversation with the legendary coach.

Column: What's All This Fuss About the Scrum? PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Coaching
Written by Eamonn Hogan   
Friday, 02 March 2012 16:42

Longtime coach Eamonn Hogan talks about what he thinks can fix the scrum at the international and pro levels, and also, why these changes will never happen.

King's Corner: My Runaway Favorite PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions
Written by Waisale Serevi   
Friday, 02 March 2012 15:25

This is the latest King's Corner column from 7s legend Waisale Serevi. This time he reminisces about the legendary Hong Kong 7s.

I’m headed back to one of my favorite places in a couple weeks – Hong Kong! I love the city on many levels.

HP Changes at USA Rugby PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News
Written by Alex Goff   
Friday, 02 March 2012 13:41

The removal of Alex Williams from USA Rugby’s position of Head of High Performance for women’s rugby is part of an overall change in how HP will be handled in the organization.

Alex Williams Removed as HP Director PDF Print Write e-mail
RUGBYmag Premier - Premier Content
Written by RUGBYMag Staff   
Friday, 02 March 2012 11:58

USA Rugby’s Women’s High Performance Director Alex Williams has lost her job following a restructuring at USA Rugby.

Former HP Director Alex Williams also doubled as the WNT 15s forwards coach. (Bill English photo)

Williams’ position has essentially been eliminated as Nigel Melville will take a more direct role as Director of Rugby for all national teams.

“I don't really feel like I am in a position to respond properly at this point,” Williams told, “other than to say that this took me completely by surprise and is not in any way my choice.”

All four senior national team coaches will now report directly to Melville, also USA Rugby’s CEO. Laterally with the Head Coaches, former USA star Luke Gross will be working to map out a pathway for the men’s teams. Gross will also consult with Melville and a panel including WNT 15s Coach Pete Steinberg, WNT 7s Coach Ric Suggitt, former WNT 7s Coach Julie McCoy, and recent women Eagles Farrah Douglas, Christy Ringgenberg to develop a clearer pathway for potential women Eagles.

“We need to get that pathway up to speed,” Melville told “I will be working with the national coaches – we’ve got four good national coaches and we need to make sure the pathway is right.”


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