By Alex Solomon - April 6, 2017
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The 2017 Spring Championship field for Men's D1AA and Women's Divisions I and II have been finalized. Regional locations will host Men's D1AA Spring Quarterfinals and Semifinals April 8-9, while Women's DII Rounds of 16 and eight will be played over the same days. The Women's DI Spring Playoffs kickoff April 21 over four locations with the Round of 16 followed by the Round of eight to be played at the same regional locations.
One Spring Champion will emerge from the Men's D1AA and Women's DII field to face Fall Champions Notre Dame College and Davenport University, respectively, at the May 5-6 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships at Life University in Marietta, Ga. In a new-look postseason format, the 16-team Women's DI bracket will produce two pairs of semifinalist that will compete for Division I and D1 Elite National Championships May 5-6. All National Championship matches at Life University will air live on The Rugby Channel.
MEN'S D1AA SPRING PLAYOFFS
An eight-team postseason tournament begins April 8 over two locations to determine which two teams will meet Saturday, April 22 for the D1AA Spring Championship at Stanford University. The victorious team from the Spring Final will earn a date with Fall D1AA Champion Notre Dame College at the May 5-6 College 15s National Championships at Life University.
Two-time defending D1AA National Champions UC Davis highlight the West Regional at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wa. The Aggies return to playoffs after avenging a regular season loss to Chico State in the Pacific Western Conference Championship game. Northern California will meet Southern California in the Quarterfinals as UC Davis is set to face Long Beach State. A season after winning the Gold Coast Conference with an undefeated record, the 49ers enter the Spring Quarterfinals after a third-place finish, but won a postseason play-in game against Dixie State, 36-14.
Western Washington is hoping its home field advantage will help to see the team past Grand Canyon. The Vikings will represent the Northwest Conference after a stellar regular season, but are sure to have their hands full Saturday, April 8 against Grand Canyon. The Lopes are in just their third season of existence, but are a team on the rise after winning the Gold Coast Conference following a perfect 5-0 season. The University-supported team has an incredibly talented roster that's proved willing to take on challenges from all divisions. Outside of its conference season, Grand Canyon also challenged itself against D1A Rugby's Arizona, Arizona State and Santa Clara.
The Upward Star Center in Spartanburg, SC will host four East Regional finalists. Florida State is one of the four finalists in the East. The Seminoles surprised many by narrowly getting past two-time D1AA National Champions Central Florida in the South Independent Rugby Conference Championship, 18-16. North Texas awaits Florida State in the Round of 8. The Mean Green have been know for their excellence in sevens, but will attempt to showoff their quality in 15s in South Carolina. A limited conference schedule hasn't produced as many wins as its playoff counterparts, but North Texas enters its postseason battle tested after challenging themselves against D1A sides Arkansas and Baylor.
Missouri returns to the postseason after going unscathed in the Heart of American Conference. Former Heart of America rival Arkansas moved to D1A, leaving the Tigers as the unquestioned alpha dogs in the conference. A second-place finish in the Ivy League's regular season over the fall, followed by Ivy Playoff wins over Yale and Princeton to qualify Brown University for Spring's Round of 8. The Bears will now face Missouri Friday, April 8.
WOMEN'S DI/D1 ELITE
2016 was the first rendition of the Women's D1 Elite Playoffs. The teams were selected at the beginning of the season based on recent and historical results of the eight hand-picked squads. This year the Women's Division I Playoffs will fracture into two separate competitions based on the results from the April 21-23 results.
Teams on the losing end of Round of 16 games will be effectively eliminated from Spring Championship. The winners, on the other hand, enter a Round of 8 field that will determine which teams will proceed to the D1 Elite and which teams will continue on in the DI Playoffs. The four winning sides from the April 22 and 23 Round of 8 will advance to the D1 Elite Semifinals, while the other four teams will shape the DI Semifinals.
STANFORD UNIVERSITY REGIONAL
Hosts Stanford, along with fellow 2016 D1 Elite participant Lindenwood, highlight the Stanford Regional. The Cardinal will be tested by Gold Coast No. 1 seed Arizona. The Wildcats enter the Spring Playoffs after besting in-state rival Arizona State in the conference's title match. The other side of the regional bracket pairs Lindenwood with Washington State.
LIFE UNIVERSITY REGIONAL
Conference winners from Florida and Mason-Dixie will duke it out in the Round of 16 when Central Florida and University of Virginia meet. The Cavaliers will likely be deemed favorites despite the Knights impressive regular season after Virginia reached the DI Spring Championship game a year ago when they lost to UC Davis in the Finals. A second team from the Florida Conference was expected in Marietta, Ga., but University of Florida opted out. In comes University of North Carolina, which will challenge itself against 2016 D1 Elite Semifinalist Life University.
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY REGIONAL
Eleven-time National Champion Penn State will host one of four DI Regionals. The Nittany Lions first roadblock on their quest for an 11th title comes in the form of Mason-Dixon Conference's James Madison. Notre Dame College, which won a DII National Championship in 2015, will square off against another Mason-Dixon side, Virginia Tech, in State College, Pa.
UC DAVIS REGIONAL
Regional hosts and 2016 Spring DI Champions UC Davis will have to get past Arizona State if it wants to defend its title. The Sun Devils enter the Round of 16 after a second-place finish in the Gold Coast competition. BYU would like another crack at a D1 Elite National Championship after falling just short of the accomplishment in 2016. The Cougars first postseason test will come in the form of Chico State.
WOMEN'S DIVISION II SPRING PLAYOFFS
Fourteen DII programs enter a Spring Playoff field that will eventually whittle down to a Spring Championship Semifinal and Final to be played April 22-23 at Stanford University. The team capable of pulling off two wins at Stanford will claim the 2017 Spring Championship and contend with Fall Champion Davenport University for the Women's DII National Championship at the May 5-6 College 15s National Championships at Life University. Spartanburg's Upward Star Center will host over half of the Spring Regional Playoff field, while four teams are heading to the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wa. for Round of 16 and 8 fixtures. Meanwhile, Gold Coast Conference winners UC Irvine will host West Coast Conference's second-place team Santa Clara in the Round of 8.