Eastern Penn is doing it a little different in women's DII college this year. The region has traditionally split team into east and west conferences for league games, then sent the top two from each group to EPRU playoffs. Eastern Penn has been fortunate enough to send three teams to MARFU championships the few years, meaning that three of the four EPRU semifinalists moved onto the territorial championship.
There are still two conferences with six teams apiece, but now the top four teams from each group will advance to the EPRU quarterfinals. The qualifier will also be contested over three weekends instead of one.
"With this new format, because more teams can make the playoffs, teams will be fighting from the first week until the last week to make playoffs," Temple coach Owen Jones said. "The overall competetiveness should definitely increase."
The two teams that finish last in each conference will play in a relegation match, with the loser moving onto division three the following year.
"This further promotes the competetivenss of the league, as teams will be fighting all season long for playoff spots and not to finish bottom," Jones added.
Temple will play in the East Conference and will get good games out of La Salle, which defeated St. Joe's 27-0 Saturday, and Delaware, which dropped down to DII after a couple of tough years in DI. Temple will open its league season on Saturday against Delaware, which blanked the College of New Jersey 27-0 this weekend.
"Our team is definitely looking bigger," Jones said in comparison to 2010. "We had 20-plus new players join the team this fall. We have graduated a few good players who we will have a hard time replacing. Our fullback Nikki Schuerch and winger Korin Tangtrakul were both outstanding and will be a challenge to replace.
"Overall I think we are in a great position," Jones added. "There is obvious talent in our new players, and it's just a matter of time before it clicks for them, and they make an impact. The players and I have had an exciting two years together; D2 national championship game and then CRC championship. Were ready for another fun year."
The Owls will be challenged right off the bat against Delaware, which is now 2-0 (including a friendly against St. Mary's on September 10).
"The match was never in doubt," Delaware coach Mike McClay reflected on Saturday's TCNJ game. "We made mistakes, but nothing costly."
Delaware graduated 12 seniors, eight of which helped comprise the starting line. The team recruited well in the off-season, and McClay is starting to see some improvements.
"We're starting to get into our groove now, so we should be playing at potential this weekend," McClay looked ahead to Temple on Saturday. "The match should be a fairly evenly matched one. Delaware and Temple are two of the top DII teams in the EPRU, so this could be a precursor to the EPRU finals in November."
Delaware follows its Temple match with a game against geographical rival and DI team, West Chester. "Two weeks from now, we'll have a much better picture of where we stand," McClay said.
Shippensburg finds itself in a similar position expertise wise, having graduated its hooker, lock, No. 8, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback. Coach Scott Stratton, however, is confident in the new class. His optimism isn't without reason, considering they contributed to a 32-0 victory over York on Saturday. The win came after only one day on the pitch, which had absorbed three weeks worth of rain, and two days on a hockey rink deck.
"Today's game against York was a good platform to work from," Stratton said. "York has graduated a number of seniors so they were looking to get out and try to stretch their legs. With probably less practice than we had, they had a tough time getting on the front foot. Ship had their share of handling errors and penalties but managed to control the pace of the game."
Eight minutes in and Erin Moore was breaking down the weak side for the game's first try. Stacy Stuart initiated the next score 10 minutes later when she stole a lineout, tapped to hooker Kate Wallace, who dotted down in the corner. Faith Biesecker finished out the first half with the game's third try.
Wing Nikki Fairman put her mark on the game, scoring two tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The next 20 minutes were ruled by the wet conditions and frustrated both sides. No. 8 Emily Grotzinger made good on a final scoring opportunity with a dive-over score through the York forwards. Molly Doyle tacked on the conversion.
"Ship will take on D2 newcomer University of Scranton next week," Stratton said. "They won their first match today beating Gettysburg 37-7. It should be a good test for the Ship forwards, and I am sure the backline will look forward to a dry ball."