Rocky Mountain Women’s Division I: Utah Vipers vs. Glendale Merlins D1:
One of the youngest and most promising clubs in the country, the Utah Vipers, take on one of the oldest and most storied clubs, the Glendale Merlins D1, this weekend. For the past two years the Utah Vipers have been one of the strongest clubs in the country, making it to the National Playoffs but losing both times to the eventual champions, Life West Gladiatrix. This year their plan is to get over that playoff hump, but Before they can do so they’ll have to get passed the Glendale Merlins, who have always given the Vipers a run for their money.
Over the past years, Glendale and Utah have forged a fierce rivalry, with the winner of their series moving on to represent the Frontier Region in the national playoffs. The last two occasions it has been Utah that advanced through. However, things may be a bit different this year as the Vipers are welcoming in a new crop of players, as some of their more established members are taking a spell on the sideline. Viper’s head coach David Shelledy explaining “We’ve got some new girls which is good. We’ve got a couple girls that aren’t playing with us this season. They’ve had babies, so they are taking time to be mums; they’ll probably be back in the Spring.”
Having to find new players is not something the Vipers are used to. For the most part, the core of this team have been together since their inception as a Junior High Program. This will be the first year where they have really been forced to look for new members, but Shelledy is excited about the prospect. “We’re just going to move people around and see how they work in different positions. We’ll see what combinations we can come up with and see if we can find something new or that we didn’t expect.”
An intimate knowledge of these two teams has been bred, since in the last two years they’ve played each other six times. To walk away with a win on the weekend the Merlins will need their backs to be the center of their attack. Utah possesses on of the best packs in the country and the Merlins will have their hands full trying to contain them. Their best shot at containing them will be playing an up-tempo game. This won’t be an issue for the Merlins considering the firepower they have stored away in their backline.
Danielle Ordway and Hannah Tennant are two of the newest members of the Merlins, but are two of their best. The pair played together at Davenport University where they won countless championships and were try scoring machines. Ordway, alone, scored 6 tries in the 2017 D1 Fall Championship. They will need to be at the top of their game if Glendale is to win this tough away fixture.
For Utah, Shelledy believes simple skills will be the key to their success. If his team is able to execute these he believes the foundations for a win will have been laid. “We have to concentrate on the basics of passing and catching the ball. If you can’t catch the ball everything else goes down the tube.”
It is a modest goal to set for the beginning of the season, especially given their lofty goal of reaching a national championship. Despite the high aspirations Shelledy thinks his team has what it takes to realize them. “That’s the goal, to keep playing and reach the national championship. Last year we had our flyhalf, our two centers and a wing out. This year we’re trying to get everybody back, that their goal. They’re working hard to achieve something.”
It promises to be an exhilarating affair and one which will have an impact deep into the season.
Midwest Premiership: Chicago Lions vs. Detroit Tradesmen:
It is a battle of the undefeateds in the Midwest Premiership this weekend, when new comers Detroit Tradesmen visit the windy city and the Chicago Lions. Detroit is in the midst of a triumphant return to Division I rugby, after a successful stint in Division II, including finishing second at the national championships twice. They have started their season in perfect fashion collecting fifteen points from three games to sit atop the eastern pool. Their opposition this weekend, the Chicago Lions, made it all the way to the Division I quarterfinals last year and are looking for another trip to nationals this year. They too have had the perfect start to the season going 2-0 and collecting two bonus points along the way. As a result they sit at second behind the Tradesmen with a game in hand. With both teams starting the season off at a lightening pace, there is every chance this game could determine which team wins their pool.
Midwest Women’s Division II, East Gold: Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh Forge:
In another colossal match, two of the best teams from the Midwest square off. The Forge, are enjoying their debut season. The Forge were created from amerger of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club and the Pittsburgh Highlanders. The pooling of the club’s resources has proven to be a massive success thus far. The Forge, have gone 3-0 and won their matches this year by an average of 32 points. It has been a team effort, with three different players crossing for four tries. Buffalo, on the other hand, has only played one game, but they won it in convincing style over Akron Rugby 54-0. Points and hard hits will be flowing all game, it will come down to who can weather the other team’s storm the best.
Mid-America Men’s Division II, South: Little Rock Stormers vs. Tulsa Rugby:
After a year apart, the Little Rock Stormers and Tulsa rugby are once again reunited and will etch another chapter into their storied rivalry. They say that absence makes the heart grow, fonder although that’s certainly not the case between these two sides. From 2014 to 2017 these two teams would determine who won their pool, unfortunately for Tulsa, each year it was the Stormers who enjoyed the last laugh. The rivalry took a hiatus last year as the Stormers ventured into Division I. For 2018-19 they find themselves back in Division II and will hope it is a triumphant return. Expect the winner of this match feature prominently in the playoffs.
Empire Men’s Division III, New York City: Old Maroon Rugby vs. Brooklyn Rugby:
Old Maroon, a team made-up predominately of Fordham University alumni and members of the New York Police Department, have been enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory. In the past three years they have gone a combined 3-22-1, so far, this year they have gone 2-0 and have been winning their games by an average of 26 points. This weekend they will face a tough match against one of the most consistent sides in their competition, Brooklyn Rugby. Brooklyn, similarly to Old Maroon have gone 2-0 to start the year, but success has not eluded them in the same way it had for Old Maroon. A statement will be made this weekend, all that remains to be seen is whether it will be a changing of the guard, or if Brooklyn will be able to hold its position.
Midwest Men’s Division III- Wisconsin: Milwaukee Rugby vs. Milwaukee Barbarians D3:
What may be the youngest rivalry in the country, may also be quickly turning into the fiercest. Milwaukee Rugby, the only Midwest team to win a Division I fifteens national title, will face off against one of the youngest sides in the region. Their opponents, the Milwaukee Barbarians, were created from a failed merger between Milwaukee Rugby and the Milwaukee West Side. While some players left, the resentment hasn’t and this weekend when the two sides meet it promises to be a fiery affair where passions run high.