A Look at Women D1 Playoffs in D1 Elite, CRAA D1, and NCR D1
A Look at Women D1 Playoffs in D1 Elite, CRAA D1, and NCR D1
Who will win DI women's college rugby is, of course, a loaded question, because it depends what you mean.
Even putting aside the NIRA finals, which we will discuss in a separate article, you could be talking about D1 Elite, NCR D1, or CRAA D1.
This week we will find out who will be in the final of each of those playoffs.
Lindenwood seems to be the top team in D1 Elite because the Lions have beaten Life (twice) and Central Washington during the regular season. They haven't played Penn State so far, but they are still favored. This past weekend Lindenwood beat Life for the second time, albeit in a close, 31-26 decision. Demi Allen and Claire Ferguson helped establish a first-half lead for Lindenwood and two second-half tries from Amy Brice kept the lead. Life kept coming back but somehow the Lions fended Life off.
Life plays in the other semifinal, and this is a complete pick 'em. Central Washington has been in solid form this fall and while the Wildcats lost to Life November 5, it was by a score of 19-15. Yes this semi will be played in Marietta, Ga., rather than Ellensburg, Wash., so Life might well be favored here. But expect this semifinals to be very close.
Utah State comes into these semifinals after an excellent fall season where the Aggies went 6-0. And during that time they beat Colorado 31-27 and Air Force 40-12, both impressive showings. Air Force's result was earlier in the season and you can see that Air Force improved as time went on as they beat Colorado later on and pushed Navy 12-3 last week.
Utah State takes on a Connecticut side which has won this championship (or its ancestor anyway) before, taking USA Rugby's Fall D1 final over Air Force in 2015, and also won the old overall USA Rugby D1 championship in 1993. Tough in the breakdown and defensively strong, UConn had a solid fall but did lose to Northeastern in Rugby Northeast.
Ah yes, Northeastern. Undefeated in Rugby Northeast, the Huskies have emerged as clearly the strongest team in the region.
"We had some big goals coming into this season, mostly making sure we continued with the level of play that we had last year," said Northeastern club president Grace Pattarini. "We had some great retention and even better recruitment, similar to last year. We have had a consistent roster of 80 at every practice and have held multiple scrimmages against our B and C sides.
"I think our biggest achievement has been the continuity and depth of our team. Almost all the forwards can play just about any position in the pack; our scrums and lineouts are strong and creative, and we work really well in our 1-3-3-1 formation."
Add to that creativity in the backline, and "we definitely have a bunch of speed as well which is always nice," said Pattarini. "We've had some awesome rookies step up and play A side consistently this year which we love."
A good team ethos combined with a sense of purpose and plenty of athleticism is a good recipe for success. Pattarini said it's the heart of the players and the environment within the team, led by captains Gracie Aravelo and Maya Raghavan, that is their biggest strength.
"Our style of play lets us be creative and move fast while also being secure but it's our mentality that wins," Pattarini explained. "Our captains ... are excellent leaders on and off the field and have worked really hard to create the environment that we have. We have improved our mental game a lot this year as well, mostly focusing on how we adjust to being challenged or put under pressure in games. We all really love playing with each other, growing the team and game at Northeastern."
The Huskies are an imposing group but they will have a stern test in Navy at Navy's home field. Having worked their way through a tense, low-scoring quarterfinal, Navy is tested and unified. And they've been in several very tight games, especially with NIRA teams, a test of their future joining of the NCAA varsity league. In games with scores 12-5, 20-10, 25-5, 19-12, and 12-3, Navy is used to difficult circumstances—by they way they went 3-2 in those games.
It's a bit of a tossup, but maybe not when we get to the final. NCR's D1 is a mix of school-supported teams and club teams, and that can be a recipe for lopsided games.
Northern Iowa is a very good team that beat Wisconsin, Winona State, and Minnesota by large margins. But they barely got by Iowa State and lost convincingly to school-supported teams Notre Dame College and Queens. UNI plays a new program team in Southern Nazarene, but one that opened up with a series of lopsided victories. Only Texas A&M gave them any trouble, and SNU beat them twice, the first time by a single point, and the second time 26-12. Have things come too easy for SNU? That may well be what gives UNI an advantage.
Iowa State, so close to Northern Iowa, will play a Michigan side that dominated the Big 10, winning all six games by an average score of 49-7. Michigan's defense could see them through here.
While Clemson has been dominant in the SARC, their competition has not been especially strong. The Tigers go up against a school-supported Notre Dame College that could very well roll through this playoff. They lost only to Davenport (which is in NIRA) and beat two of the teams in this playoff, Northern Iowa and Colgate, by more than 35.
And yes Colgate is in the playoffs against Iowa. Iowa lost a competitive match to Michigan in the Big 10 and that's the result most germane to the topic at hand. Colgate is another team that won games with plenty of breathing room only to hit against a brick wall at some point, in this case Notre Dame College.
Unlike the other two playoffs, NCR will do a two-game weekend, with quarterfinals on Friday and finals on Sunday. The UNI-SNU-Michigan-Iowa State side of the bracket is a bit of a tossup, but it does look like the other side will see NDC into the final.
Check back for scores
|11/18/2022||Northern Iowa||42-29||Southern Nazarene||NCR D1 QF|
|11/18/2022||Michigan||36-17||Iowa State||NCR D1 QF|
|11/18/2022||Notre Dame College||57-5||Clemson||NCR D1 QF|
|11/18/2022||Colgate||15-42||Iowa||NCR D1 QF|
|11/19/2022||Central Washington||19-22||Life University||D1 Elite SF|
|11/19/2022||Penn State||ccld||Lindenwood||D1 Elite SF|
|11/19/2022||Utah State||5-43||UConn||CRAA DI SF|
|11/19/2022||Northeastern||5-52||Navy||CRAA DI SF|
|11/20/2022||UNI||vs||Michigan||NCR D1 SF|
|11/20/2022||NDC||vs||Clemson||NCR D1 SF|