With the men’s DII college championship season held exclusively in the fall, teams have been spending the winter and spring gearing up for a go at another national championship—sevens.
The qualification process for DII has been a bit murky but some recent powers in DII will be looking to stake claim to a title on Memorial Day Weekend.
The field will consist of 12 teams to be determined by conference qualifiers and at large bids. Currently, USA Rugby lists six conferences with automatic qualifiers to nationals with all of those slated for the next two weekends. To date, the only team that has officially qualified is William Paterson of the Tri-State Conference.
Big Weekend Upcoming
This upcoming weekend will see teams earn berths from the Gateway, Mid-Atlantic, Rugby Northeast and Cardinals conferences.
In the Cardinals Conference, North Carolina State, who won their first ever 15s national title this fall, took the first tournaments in the series and looked to be primed to win the qualifier this weekend. However, varsity program Queens College and UVA, who could cause a stumble.
Principia won the plate at last year's event and could be a tough out at nationals out of the Gateway. Saint Louis University, which has done very well in past nationals, has not put an emphasis on sevens this season but is always a threat in the sevens game.
The Mid-Atlantic has the final leg of three in its 7s circuit this upcoming weekend. After dominating the conference last season and winning all three tournaments Bloomsburg came out of the gate strong winning the first tournament but 15s champions from the fall, Villanova won the second leg over Bloomsburg to make it anybody’s game this weekend. Currently, Bloomsburg sits with 23 points, the Wildcats with 22 Scranton at 19 and Drexel at 17. Bloomsburg will host this weekend.
Rugby Northeast will see eight teams play its tournament this weekend. While it is not clear if New England College is dropping down to DII, the team is in the tournament set for this weekend. Norwich has been a perennial power in 15s but has never made a splash in 7s. This field will be super competitive with Bentley, St. Michael’s and Middlebury making it a tough group.
Later This Spring
The Upper Midwest, which is slated for April 20, may be the toughest bracket of all. What has historically been the strongest 15s conference in DII added Iowa Central for the sevens season. Wisconsin-Whitewater, which finished runner-up in the national 15s championships, struggled at the Heart of America qualifier against DI opponents. Iowa Central won a tuneup last weekend and has performed well against higher-division opponents before.
Then things get a little disorganized. The Southern Rugby Conference is not listed as a qualifier but reigning national champions UNC-Charlotte is still the standard bearer for the region and conference indicated that the winner will head to nationals. The conference is 16 teams deep and has cumulative points over three legs. The fourth and final leg will send a team to nationals and will comprise the top eight teams.
So as many as seven conferences could send champions to the national tournament in Tucson, AZ May 24-26, leaving space open for as five to seven at-large teams.