FIU Leading Florida
FIU Leading Florida
As the fall season comes to a close, there are already glimpses of the action that awaits in the spring. West Coast teams have played each other at tournaments like Scrum by the Sea and Stanford 7s, and the Pacific Mountain Conference has held North Division games. And Florida, which now contains the only DI conference in the South (excluding the southern pool of the Mason-Dixon conference), has seen two former DII teams impress early on.
Florida International and South Florida debuted in the new DI conference this fall, and both have proven that they deserved the promotion. The former is coming off a DII spring final four appearance, and in 2014, FIU advanced to the national semifinals. So it shouldn't be too surprising that the team has defeated Florida 44-6 and Florida State 54-10 in matrix games, and currently leads the standings. The big test, of course, will be Central Florida, but those two matrix games will occur in spring 2016.
"Yes, we feel that we have something to prove," FIU coach Trevor Alfred said. "We have a chip on our shoulder because we as a team are tired of being seen as a fluke or people thinking that the weakness in DII Florida rugby was our reason for success. We want to eradicate that assumption and let our character and skills speak for us."
FIU might be working to bump that chip on its shoulder, but the women’s teams in Florida are all invested in each other’s sustainability. Feeder systems solidify where they can, established sides provide competition to developing teams, and tournament divisions intertwine senior club sides with college teams. The latter is more out of necessity (numbers), but it’s beneficial for FIU, which is eager to elevate its game. The team finished second to Fort Miami women at the Florida Cup tournament, beating two women's sides (Jacksonville 7-0, Orlando 14-10) and also USF 24-0 en route to the final.
This flexibility is a function of Florida’s split-season schedule.
“It works for us,” Alfred spoke to Florida in general. “We get a look at everybody at the tournaments, before the regular season, and can gauge our competition. It also allows us to get our newer players game time against developing teams like women's club Indian River and teams going through a rebuilding process like the University of Miami.”
A strong class of rookies has fortified FIU this year. Fullback Alisa Davis, lock Selena Everitt, and wing Carolla Duque stand out among the youngsters, while veterans like No. 8 Lashana Dabney, scrumhalf Leandria Ates, flyhalf Eileen De La Rosa, and inside center Brittany Broomfield keep FIU grounded. Then of course there’s Ashaunte Stroman, who has been in the All American system and represents the team’s biggest scoring threat.On Saturday, Stroman had to leave the field for a blood injury, but when she returned, she scored two tries.
Florida International goes silent for the balance of the year, but the conference gets into the thick of its matrix season in late January. FIU will start 2016 with a game against traditional powerhouse Central Florida, and that result will go a long way in translating the team's strength.