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Delaware Eyes Playoffs

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Delaware Eyes Playoffs

The Fightin' Blue Hens hope for national playoffs.

There is new reason for the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference (MARC) to get excited about playoffs. The previous two years, the MARC championship coincided with the national fall Round of 32, so the conference received two seeds directly to the Round of 16. But now that the conference has adjusted its playoff format and schedule, MARC will receive three seeds to the national fall Round of 32 instead.

MARC removed its quarterfinal round from playoffs and will begin with the semifinals, sending the top two teams from each division to the championship on Nov. 7-8. The inclusion in the national Round of 32 also means that MARC will now contest a third-place game, which previously had no relevance.

That prospect is huge, especially for a team like Delaware. The Fightin’ Blue Hens were national contenders in 2009 and 2010, but have spent the last few years rebuilding. The team has advanced to conference semifinals, but has yet to return to the title match. Delaware is currently 4-0 in the Tri-State Division and is in a good position to advance to the MARC final four.

“We’ve been looking good but haven’t been tested, so it’s hard to know how good you really are,” Delaware coach Mike McClay said. “The hardest two games are our last two games, so we’ve had some time to prepare for them. But while I remind the girls to stay positive, I also tell them to don't go thinking we’re great; we just don’t know yet.”

McClay has reason to be optimistic this year, as the numbers rebounded from the 20s into the mid-30s. He fields a first XV with experienced players, and the B side is full of new, young athletes, plus reserves. Backs captain Mitzi Oliver is at the center of Delaware’s attack. The outside center boasts great speed and has higher-level playing experience backing her. Watch for the second row pairing of Kaila Muser and Mufasa Litostansky. They’re good go-forward players and solidify the Delaware scrum. Junior scrumhalf Paige Kirby is also coming into her own, and helps drive a balanced attack.

After a 43-0 win over Drexel last Saturday, Delaware will face Kutztown in a battle of the Tri-State Division undefeateds. If Delaware gets the win, then it’ll secure its MARC playoff spot. If Delaware loses, then the Oct. 31 match against St. Joseph’s will likely determine which of those two teams will move onto the conference final four.

ALSO IN TRI-STATE

Kutztown beat Rowan 73-0 and did so with a mixed-experience side. Backs captain Mary Cate Matta slid from flyhalf to inside center and led all point-scorers with 21 on two tries, four conversions, and a penalty. Freshman Celina Dickison stepped into the halfback position and earned Woman of the Match for her hat trick. Tries were also scored by lock Aysia Grondahl, forwards captain/No. 8 Amy Skotek (2), outside center Nicole Dudkewic, scrumhalf Erica Papp, and wing Leah Keyser.

“Overall I am very happy with the way we played,” Kutztown coach Sean Cobb praised. “The younger players where challenged to step up and they did exactly what was asked of them. I am very interested to see what this younger group of players will be capable of moving forward. However, some of that will have to wait as we need to refocus and prepare for Delaware this weekend.”

PENNSYLVANIA DIVISION

Shippensburg was supposed to play a Friday-Saturday doubleheader, but had to forfeit its first game against East Stroudsburg. Shippensburg did play Lock Haven, but lost 32-17. This weekend, ESU travels to Bloomsburg to decide the top seed in the division.

MARC STANDINGS
PA Division W L F MR PF PA PD PTS
Bloomsburg 4 0 0 3 307 37 100 12
East Stroudsburg 4 0 0 1 152 25 78 12
Millersville 2 3 0 4 81 168 -31 6
York College 2 2 0 1 27 92 -38 6
Lock Haven 1 4 0 3 74 242 -61 3
Scranton 1 3 0 3 56 104 -19 3
Shippensburg 1 3 1 1 60 89 -29 2
 
Tri-State Division W L F MR PF PA PD PTS
Kutztown 4 0 0 2 264 5 100 12
Delaware 4 0 0 0 119 5 92 12
St. Joseph's 3 1 0 2 128 65 49 9
Drexel 2 2 0 0 64 85 -3 6
College of NJ 2 3 0 0 86 137 -40 6
LaSalle 0 4 1 0 20 198 -82 -1
Rowan 0 5 2 0 12 198 -116 -2