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Women DII College Top 20 - Sept. 4, 2014

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Women DII College Top 20 - Sept. 4, 2014

Pre-season is nearly over, so it’s time for Goff Rugby Report’s first Women DII College Rankings for the 2014-15 season. The DII landscape is a quickly changing one, and we have an idea of how some of the more established programs are looking early on. But expect a lot of movement in the Top 20, and be sure to check back every other week for updates.

Winona is our number one (read more). Although the Black Katts graduated irreplaceables like Holly Vassar and Caitlin Courtney, 24 of the players who helped Winona to the ACRA championship last year have returned. The team does have a new head coach, Josh Krzewinski, but don’t expect any lapses in continuity or strength this year.

Teams like Winona are handicapped by the lack of competition in its region, and that could have been the case for Notre Dame College (read more) if the program didn’t have the resources to travel. The varsity squad doubles up on weekends and peppers strong friendlies – like USA Rugby DII champion Mary Washington and Penn State – into its league season. Standouts like Leah Walsh and Hannah Gauthreaux will lead the charge, while some key pick-ups, like WPL San Diego Surfer wing/scrumhalf Karmin Macedo (who is currently nursing a hip injury), will bolster our #3 team.

Mary Washington (read more) is also renowned for its jam-packed schedules, but the Virginia school isn’t blessed with school-backed finances. The coaching duo of Kris Kabza and Bill Lucas has been working together for the previous 24 years, so they keep a fundraising state of mind. That preparedness paid off last year, when a last-minute trip to Stanford was made possible, and the team was justly rewarded with a DII title. The most exciting non-playoff game this fall season will occur between Mary Washington and Notre Dame College. It’ll be a Sunday friendly, but serious bragging rights are on the table, and both teams know it.

Coming in at number 4 is CSU Northridge, which finished second in USA Rugby’s DII championship. Although falling short of the title, there was huge recompense in the strides the team has made since its inception only a few years ago. Much of that success is due to a core of founding members, and their time on the field is coming to an end. CSUN will feel it most in the forwards, as their former captain, Ciarra Waters-Mullen, leader Sarah McGee and Evelyn Avila – all of whom scored tries in the national championship – have graduated. Monique Robles is also still recovering from a knee injury. Consequently, Northridge will rely on its backs, especially captain and flyhalf Gillian Chance, a senior. Keep an eye on Yesenia Camacho, and up-and-comers like Stephanie Peterson and Kristina Lin, who will attempt to bring Northridge back to the Final Four.

In terms of teams in flux, Vassar is another one. The New York team lost the incomparable Margaret Kwateng, and the incoming class will have a hell of a time replacing not only the team’s most dynamic player but also a core of seniors who graduated last season. There’s good competition in the Tri-State conference – ranging from Stony Brook, to Rutgers, to Marist depending on the year – so a late surge might be Vassar’s best hope.

We’re expecting bigger things from Davenport and Kutztown this year. The former has been busy – playing 15s and 7s in both ACRA and USA Rugby competitions – and that exposure has put some of their players on the national radar. Last year’s leading try-scorer, Danielle Ordway, travelled with the USA Women Junior All Americans to Canada. The team has also attracted some of the country’s top recruits, including Herriman High School’s Ashlee Byrge, who also competed with the WJAAs. We’ll be watching next week when the Panthers take on DI Michigan and then Lindenwood in non-conference matches.

Kutztown (read more) made it to ACRA’s final four last year, but some last-minute injuries forced the team to abandon a game plan that had gotten them to the playoffs. But now flyhalf Mary Cate Matta is back, and the Pennsylvania side can once again indulge in the more balanced game that took them to Florida. Tabetha Super will be the main scoring threat, and a year of traveling and playing with elite teams like Atlantis and Old Blue 7s has made her even more dangerous.

It’s tough to get a read on those spring-league teams, but we'll make a special effort to track Appalachian State, Lee University and newcomers to the national stage Florida International and South Florida. If Long Beach State has retained many of its players, then it might surpass CSUN in southern California, as well, but those realizations are a ways off.

Stay tuned as league seasons get underway and tournaments/friendlies lend insight into the South and West Coast teams. Let the season begin!

Women DII College Top 25 - Sept. 4, 2014
1Winona StateCurrent ACRA DII champion
2Mary WashingtonCurrent USA Rugby DII champion
3Notre Dame College (1-0)2nd in ACRA; won ACRA DII 7s championship; defeated Buffalo 104-0 on August 30
4CSU NorthridgeRunner-up at USA Rugby DII championship
5Indiana (Pa.)3rd at USA Rugby's DII championship
6Appalachian StateForfeited USA Rugby Final Four berth to Mary Washington
7KutztownFinished 4th in ACRA
8VassarFinished 3rd in ACRA
9Florida International4th at USA Rugby's DII championship
10Long Beach StateFell 12-0 to CSU Northridge in USAR quarterfinal
11DavenportLost to IUP in USA Rugby DII championship
12Lee UniversityLost to Florida International at USA Rugby quarterfinals
13SalisburyLost to IUP 24-7 in USA Rugby quarterfinals
14BowdoinLost 15-5 to Kutztown in ACRA quarterfinals
15IthacaLost 22-21 to Notre Dame College in ACRA quarterfinals
16South FloridaFell nine points short of Lee University in USA Rugby R16
17NebraskaGave Winona a decent game in ACRA playoffs
18LindenwoodTelling friendly: game vs Davenport on 9.13
19SUNY GeneseoCompeted in both ACRA and USA Rugby championships: lost 41-10 to Vassar, 27-5 to Davenport
20Humboldt StateLost 43-17 to CSU Northridge in USA Rugby R16