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DII College's True Opening Weekend

College Men

DII College's True Opening Weekend

It’s a huge weekend in Men’s DII college rugby as most leagues get moving.

Here's a rundown:

Great Midwest

One of the toughest leagues in the division sees five games on the slate. Minnesota-Duluth played, and beat, Northern Michigan last week to open up this weekend for the All-Minnesota tournament. So now NMU has to bounce back against a tough Marquette team. 

This is an early playoff-ramifications clash.

Last year’s national runner-up, Wisconsin-Whitewater, a team that has an alumnus in the USA Rugby World Cup squad (Ben Landry), is ready to get started. Whitewater has had some significant turnover over the year—most of the central group that led the Warhawks to multiple national titles over the last four years have graduated.

However, don’t count them out. The tight five, led by prop Dom Swanson, locks Nick Hammel and Casey Osterberg, and helped by No. 8 Tyrell Lovings, all starters in the the 2018 national final, is experienced and tough. The backline is almost completely new, but Whitewater can still play.

 

Northern Lights

With most of the Minnesota teams that aren’t NSCO in the All-Minnesota tournament, it’s North Dakota State vs North Dakota, and we’ll see who is good then.

Bank on NDSU, who went out early in the national playoffs last year because they drew Iowa Central CC, and North Dakota State still scored 17 points on the Tritons.

Front-rower Logan Balvik, lock Gareth Heintz, flanker Tucker Renfrow, center Kolton Goepfert, and fullback Luke Gulbranson all return, but can they reload at other positions?

Great Lakes

Friday sees varsity squad Bethel against Ferris State. The Pilots have some work to do to get into mid-season form, and will likely be looking at Grand Valley State as their main rival, once more. GVSU hosts Central Michigan on Saturday.

MARC

We had a quick look at Villanova last week and they then rolled over their East Stroudsburg. James Lyons scored three tries in that game and had this to say about his team:

"Last fall we definitely utilized our depth and rugby knowledge to outlast teams," Lyons said. "In the second half, we tended to put other teams away after a close first half, and used different styles to maintain leads or pull away. Also having a backline and forward pack that had worked together for years also helped tremendously."

And this year?

"I think that we show some promise. Obviously we lost some key forwards from last season which is tough but kept out backline fully intact." 

Bloomsburg vs York is a key early clash in what is always a very competitive conference.

Southern Conference

Having recognized that no one likes losing by 70 points and no one likes winning by 70 points, on a regular basis, the SoConn has been split into Premier and Challenger divisions. This pits the very strongest in the Premier, and that’s why you see Appalachian State against Furman, The Citadel against East Carolina, and UNC Wilmington against North Carolina.

Tough games all the way through. Watch out for Furman, though. They usually warm up against DI competition, often South Carolina and Georgia. They've never beaten both in the same preseason ... until now.

Cardinals

The Cardinals Conference has split up, as well, creating a DII league and a Hybrid league with includes NSCRO teams. With NC State off to DIAA, this league is wide open. Best game this weekend is probably Old Dominion vs. Virginia.

 

Rugby Northeast

Two games are on the slate for RNE. Norwich enters as a league favorite but a pretty hefty loss to Brown has us wondering how strong the Cadets are.

After going 33-4 over the past three years, Norwich has seen some excellent leaders graduate. Head Coach Bob Weggler said that “[William] Rambin is our captain has done a great job managing our leadership council so far this season. [Jonah] Fanuef, [Nate] Rolling, [and Jeffrey] Minicucci have all played a lot of rugby for us over the years and will help lead a young team this year. It's a good group of guys but we're young. We've got some talent, athletic ability and some speed that is so crucial in the game of rugby." 

They might be a bit of a work in progress, and Bentley could be in an excellent position to trip the Cadets up this year.

Gateway

There are no easy games in the Gateway and, with their league season so short, no room for slipups. Principia said goodbye to their longtime and beloved coach Ward Patterson, but the Thunder Chickens are still very talented. 

9/13/19 Ferris State at Bethel Great Lakes
9/14/19 Northern Michigan vs Marquette Great Midwest
9/14/19 UIC vs Illinois State Great Midwest
9/14/19 Northern Iowa vs Western Illinois Great Midwest
9/14/19 UW Platteville vs UW Whitewater Great Midwest
9/14/19 Milwaukee vs UW Stout Great Midwest
9/14/19 UND at NDSU Northern Lights
9/14/19 SDSU at Winona State Northern Lights
9/14/19 St. Thomas at St. Johns Northern Lights
9/14/19 Mankato at MSU - Moorhead Northern Lights
9/14/19 Moravian College at Villanova MARC
9/14/19 East Stroudsburg at TCNJ MARC
9/14/19 Bloomsburg at York MARC
9/14/19 Scranton at Shippensburg MARC
9/14/19 Appalachian State at Furman Southern PL
9/14/19 The Citadel at ECU Southern PL
9/14/19 UNCW at North Carolina Southern PL
9/14/19 UNCG at Elon Southern CL
9/14/19 Lander at WCU Southern CL
9/14/19 College of Charleston at Coastal Carolina Southern CL
9/14/19 Wake Forest at Campbell Southern CL
9/14/19 VMI vs Northern Va Griffins Cardinals
9/14/19 Madison Dev vs Emory and Henry Cardinals
9/14/19 Duke vs Queens Cardinals
9/14/19 Radford vs Roanoke Cardinals
9/14/19 Southern Virginia vs Washington and Lee Cardinals
9/14/19 Hampden-Sydney vs Richmond Cardinals
9/14/19 William and Mary vs George Mason Cardinals
9/14/19 VCU vs Christendom Cardinals
9/14/19 Old Dominion vs Virginia Cardinals
9/14/19 Norwich vs Bentley Rugby Northeast
9/14/19 Providence vs New England College Rugby Northeast
9/14/19 Northern Colorado vs Colorado Mesa Rocky Mountain
9/14/19 Western Colorado vs Weber State Rocky Mountain
9/14/19 Montana State vs Idaho State Rocky Mountain
9/14/19 Umass Dartmouth vs Endicott Colonial Coast
9/14/19 Roger Williams vs Western NE Colonial Coast
9/14/19 Mass Maritime vs Wentworth Colonial Coast
9/14/19 Stonehill vs Wheaton Colonial Coast
9/14/19 Bridgewater State vs Johnson & Wales Colonial Coast
9/14/19 Central Michigan  at GVSU Great Lakes
9/14/19 Washington University at Principia Gateway
9/14/19 Southern Illinois at St. Louis U. Gateway
9/14/19 Pitt State at John Brown Gateway
9/14/19 UMS&T at UMKC Gateway