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Womens DII National Championships – Houston

Ten Teams Ready for Women’s DII Club Playoffs

(Maryland in yellow, Raleigh in red during the Mid-Atlantic playoffs. Both travel to Houston this weekend)

By Jackie Finlan, RugbyMag.com

The Women’s DII National Club Championship takes place this weekend, but unlike years previous, won’t be played alongside its DI compatriots. DI and the newly formed Women’s Premier League will contest their semifinals in San Francisco, while DII heads to Houston. But the shake-up is one of many for DII this year, as the face of its competition has changed once again.

Two more territories have joined the frayL West and Southern California. Each were awarded one seed to the rest of the territories’ two, and with their inclusion, the championship (which is technically an invitational) is one territory short (Pacific Coast) of being considered for official USAR status. Those on the USAR Competitions Committee, however, have made it clear that it’s not enough to have the territories simply participate; there is a minimum level of competition that must be established in each territory.

That level doesn’t currently exist in the West yet. The territory formed a DII league that has two teams, Dallas Diablos and Houston (HARC), and its nationals representative was decided over one match in late September, which HARC won 41-0. Houston, which formed in 1998 and has Texas A&M as its feeder, will have no easy initiation at nationals and will face former DII champion Raleigh (which returns to DII from DI) in the first round.

Southern California’s Santa Barbara represents the second new territory to join DII Nationals. The Dolphins’ league season occurred in the spring, so the team’s been preparing for their Houston trip all fall. They posted impressive numbers against new DII teams Tucson Lightning, Coast and San Luis Obispo, all of whom joined the new DII league, posting 275 points and allowing 39. Those 39 points, however, weren’t from league games but DI matches against Belmont Shore and Tempe built into their season. As the new kids on the block, they’re afforded the #9 seed and will have an equally tough time as its West RFU newbies. The Dolphins face former DI team Maryland Stingers on day one.

Another interesting evolution in DII is the removal of certain powerhouses and the re-introduction of others. Last year’s finalists, Orlando and Detroit, bumped up to division one this year, and between the two of them account for four championship titles. With Detroit out of the picture, the Pittsburgh Angels, which made a 2006 nationals appearance, return to the scene. They beat the Minneapolis Menagerie 27-5 in the Midwest finals a couple of weekends ago. The Menagerie haven’t been to nationals since 2002, but crushed their regular season opponents (with the exception of Milwaukee, which came within six points). The Minnesota team faces Providence in its first round.

Miami, which takes over the number one seed left by Orlando, nabbed the top spot after first defeating Baton Rouge 21-7 in the South Championship semi, then topped Charleston 22-5 in the final. Charleston, which advanced to the South final after a 24-5 over Memphis, makes its first trip to nationals and will face Pittsburgh right off the bat.

Former DII champion Raleigh Venom moved up to DI after repeat DII titles in 2007. The MARFU team relegated itself to division II (as did the Maryland Stingers) when their league underwent a facelift this year. The two Mid-Atlantic teams used to compete against teams in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania during league season, but when Competitive Region 3 was restructured to include teams as far north as Boston and as far south as Atlanta, they had to drop to DII for cost/personnel reasons.

This season, the Venom and Stingers finished first and second in MARFU’s south division, and played off against the north division’s top teams on Oct. 17 for the national bids. Raleigh won 22-12 over Brandywine, while Maryland eked out a 5-0 win over Harrisburg. Raleigh beat the Exiles 13-0 for the MARFU title.

That leaves the Northeast’s teams, Albany and Providence, both of which have DII nationals experience. The Northeast is probably the only region that hasn’t endured any flux; no new teams injected into the competition, none have vacated. Both teams are from New England, with Albany as the number one seed, having beat the Village Lions 18-12 in the semis, then blanking Providence 24-0 for the NRU title. They welcome former 7s Eagle JoAnne Ward and Eagle scrumhalf Claudia Braymer to the team after some time off. Providence advanced to the final after beating Monmouth 22-17 and boot up against Miami on day one.

Ten teams makes for an awkward playoff system. There are three pools, two of which have three teams, one with four. Grouped as follows:

Pool A: Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Charleston, Houston
Pool B: Miami, Providence, Minneapolis
Pool C: Albany, Maryland, Santa Monica

The first two teams to lose a game in Pool A are eliminated from cup contention. For the rest, a lot doesn’t necessarily eliminate them. The three pool winners are joined by the best-performing 2nd place team in the semis.

Matchups on day one:
Game 1 – Pittsburgh v Charleston
Game 2 – Miami v Providence
Game 3 – Albany v Maryland
Game 4 – Raleigh v Houston
Game 5 – Maryland v Santa Monica
Game 6 – Providence v Minneapolis
Game 7 – Loser game 1 v loser game 4
Game 8 – Winner game 1 v winner game 4
Game 9 – Miami v Minneapolis
Game 10 – Albany v Santa Barbara