ACRA is closing out its regular seasons and DII playoffs loom. There are a number of important games this weekend that will essentially determine who’s heading to the DII Round of 32 on Nov. 16 (see the brackets here).
In the western portion of the division, a few conferences have playoff bids hinging on this Saturday’s results, and none so more than the Great Waters conference. The league is coming off a tumultuous round in which UW Stevens Point, for the first time since 2006, defeated perennial champion UW La Crosse 33-22.
"It was a battle of contrasting styles,” UW Stevens Point coach Gray Zischke said. “We looked to spread the field and attack at every opening; La Crosse played a power forward game, dominating long periods of play with the crash and ruck.”
Stevens Point rallied from a 10-0 deficit to overtake La Crosse 19-10 at the half and then push their margin to 33-10 in the second 40. Two late tries made the score respectable. UWSP wing Maggie Armstrong’s two tries, and a try and four conversions from wing Breanna Valenza helped secure the momentous victory, which also knocked off the last undefeated team in the conference.
Tomorrow the top four teams will go head to head. UWSP (5-0) will play UW Oshkosh (4-1), while UW La Crosse (4-1) take on UW Stout (4-1). There are still three Saturdays of play remaining, but tomorrow is an important one. What’s at stake? Two bids to nationals. The top seed will face the Northern Lights runner-up (likely Mankato), while second place will have the ominous task of Northern Lights champion Winona.
The Mid-American conference receives an automatic bid to playoffs, and the champion will face the Eastern Rockies runner-up. A nice little race between Arkansas, Nebraska and Truman State has evolved late in season. Two of three matches have occurred between the trio thus far, and both losers earned bonus-try and bonus-loss points. The Arkansas vs. Truman State game tomorrow will name the champion, but it might come down to points differential. Arkansas is favored for the win and playoffs berth.
Another deciding match occurs in Allegheny. After a thrilling one-point loss to conference leader IUP, Slippery Rock boots up against Clarion, which is currently in second place. IUP beat Clarion 41-0 last weekend, so odds are that Slippery Rock will win comfortably. IUP will repeat as Allegheny champion and host an at-large bid in the Round of 32, and should Slippery Rock win tomorrow as expected, they'll travel to the CARFU champion’s home ground (likely University of Chicago).
In the eastern portion of ACRA, the most exciting action is occurring in the Tri-State conference, which is hosting its quarterfinals. At Marist, the hosts play Fairfield, and Rutgers takes on Vassar. At Stony Brook, the hosts play SUNY Binghamton, and Albany plays Molloy. Tri-State receives three seeds to ACRA playoffs.
The NESC has had a forfeit – sometimes two – logged every weekend. Not a great stat considering there are only three games per weekend, but the conference is still getting two seeds to playoffs. That said, there should be two decent teams representing the NESC. After dominating the competition for years, Bowdoin fell to Tufts 29-17 and essentially handed over the title. All Tufts has to do now is beat Colby, which is 4-1 but has a week-one forfeit that may deduct a table point, and the number one seed is theirs. The conference champ will face Rugby Northeast’s #3 seed in the first round, while the runner-up will face the New England Wide champ (looking like Coast Guard Academy).
There's another curiosity in the seeding. Both of the Mid-Atlantic seeds receive byes through the Round of 32. Confusing to the say the least. In the South division, Shippensburg and Delaware played to the death last weekend, as the former eked at a 10-5 victory to essentially win the division. This weekend, a match of the same caliber occurs in the North division, as the undefeateds vie for the unblemished record. Defending MARC champion Lock Haven faces its toughest competition in Kutztown tomorrow.
Stay tuned for all of the results and the effects on the national playoffs.