Several teams prep for key nonconference meetings

D1A Rugby: Several teams prep for key nonconference meetings
Photo Credit: Jay Morrison (left) & Connie Hatfield (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – Several teams from Big Ten Universities and Rugby East conferences are getting back on the pitch after being buried in snow the past few months. The return to the field for these Midwest and East Coast squads has produced an uptick in friendlies involving D1A sides.

This weekend, several D1A programs are set to play nonconference games against impressive opposition. Of course, the matches have no impact on conference standings, but results will be imperative for teams fighting for position on the Canterbury D1A Top 20, and a place in the 2016 D1A Playoffs.

 

Army vs. BYU (3/17) & Army vs. Utah (3/19)
West Point has five matches scheduled for the month of March, with a trip to Utah for two very difficult encounters plugged in the middle.

Coming off its first March friendly, an easy, 56-5, win over Ivy League Champions Dartmouth, the Black Knights are set to face a physically-imposing BYU side. The Cougars have already beaten the likes of Air Force, Central Washington, and Saint Mary’s, and are proving, once again, to be one of the very best programs in the country.

Less than 48 hours after putting in an 80-minute shift against BYU, Army will tangle with No. 5 Utah. The Utes might not quite have the size or firepower their rivals from Provo, Utah, have, but will make for a very difficult second fixture, nonetheless.

The Utes should be pretty fired up to match up against West Point. Last week, Utah nearly swept its two games against Saint Mary’s and UCLA, but instead dropped both. On a Thursday night against the Gaels, the Utes mounted a massive comeback only to fall, 57-50. Two days later the boys from Salt Lake City licked their wounds in an attempt to topple UCLA. Unfortunately for Utah, a would-be game-winning penalty was deemed wide of the uprights, although many on hand felt the kick was successful.

 

San Diego State vs. Arizona State
The Aztecs are coming off their biggest win of the season, after slipping past Cal Poly, 21-20. However, San Diego State isn’t resting on its California Conference results to prove it is a program on the rise. The Aztecs will test themselves out of conference against Arizona State this Saturday, and will do so again against BYU 10 days later.

The Sun Devils haven’t faired too well in their extremely difficult slate of matches in the PAC Rugby Conference. Against D1A competition, Arizona State has been defeated by No. 5 Utah and No. 12 Arizona. Still, the Sun Devils’ numerous losses are more an indication of just how difficult a schedule the program puts together, rather than the talent on its roster.

Both San Diego State and Arizona State are known for their stellar back line play, so expect points to pile up during this contest.

 

Cal Poly vs. Grand Canyon
The Mustangs need to build some positive momentum before their April 9 contest against No. 2 Saint Mary’s. A one-point loss to San Diego State was a hiccup in the team’s California Conference schedule, but Cal Poly won’t have to wait long to correct its mistakes.

A visit to Grand Canyon University will provide the Mustangs with some of the best D1AA opposition west of the Mississippi. The ‘Lopes are just a second-year program, but have accumulated plenty of good young talent. Interestingly enough, Grand Canyon is coming off its own heartbreaking one-point loss, as the ‘Lopes fell to an improving University of Southern California side, 32-31.

 

Michigan vs. Wheeling Jesuit
Last spring, Wheeling Jesuit reeled off several wins in 15s, including a 25-19 defeat of Navy. This year, the Cardinals have again put together another sturdy list of friendlies, but the beginning of the spring semester is off to a slow start.

Playing on a neutral site against the Big Ten Universities Champions, Wheeling Jesuit couldn’t keep up with Indiana’s dynamic back line, and fell to the Hoosiers, 44-17.

Michigan’s spring focus is centered around sevens, the code in which the Wolverines will compete in three BTU Conference tournaments. However, Michigan is mixing in a few 15s fixtures, but none bigger than its match against the Cardinals. Saturday’s game pitting Rugby East’s fourth-place team versus BTU’s fourth-place team will be played in Cincinnati.

 

Davenport vs. Grand Rapids Gazelles RFC
Some players might be rested following the Panthers’ physical battle against Lindenwood that required a late charge from the Lions to steel the Mid-South contest. However, those who suit up for Davenport will want to play and play well.

The Panthers have lost four consecutive games, and the task at hand only gets harder after its friendly with the local senior men’s team. Davenport still has games remaining against Life and Lindenwood, though both will be played at home.

Several Panthers will enjoy the opportunity to play against former teammates when they line up against Grand Rapids. The No. 7-ranked D1A side acts as a feeder program to the Gazelles, who have a number of one-time Davenport student-athletes, including former All-Americans Mason Baum and Gabe Sochanek.


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