Central Florida to defend D1AA title versus UC Davis

BOULDER, Colo. – Reigning National Champion Central Florida will defend its D1AA title against the University of California – Davis after each team won its Regional Playoffs April 25-26. The Knights return to the Championship Final after defeating the Merchant Marine Academy in the round of eight and West Virginia in the Semifinals of the East Regional in Pittsburgh, while Davis won the West Regional with wins over Western Washington and Arkansas.

Central Florida overpowered Kings Point to the tune of a 35-point victory on day one. Grady Barnard banged through five conversions and added a try, while second rower Christian Rossi had four tries of his own to guide the Knights to their 50-15 win.

Keystone Conference Champion West Virginia was able to dispose of surprise Regional participant Yale. After the Bulldogs notched the first points of the Quarterfinals on Graham Harboe’s try, the Mountaineers scored the game’s next 17 points. Number eight Ryan Blythe would add two second-half tries to help earn his squad a shot at Central Florida in the Semifinals.

Barnard’s boot proved accurate again in the East Regional Final as the Knights’ fly half slotted his team’s first three conversions to give Central Florida an early, 21-5, advantage. However, West Virginia would close the opening half with a converted Austin Hoover try and penalty from full back Chris Mackenrodt.

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The surge by the Mountaineers continued briefly into the second half, with Mackenrodt adding another penalty just six minutes into the frame to bring the score to 21-18 in favor of the Knights. Those, however, would be the final points West Virginia could muster. Meanwhile, Rossi added his fifth try of the weekend, and prop John Sennett, who dotted down in the first half, put down two more to push Central Florida’s lead to 38-18 by the time the final whistle blew.

In Davis, Calif., the hosting university found itself in a tight battle for 40 minutes before pulling away from Western Washington in the second half. Centers Yutaro Kobayashi and Nathan Oliveira scored second-half tries and fly halves Josh Campos and Ian McCaffrey combined to make seven of eight conversions in the Aggies’ 50-10 win.

On the other side of the West Regional bracket, red-hot Long Beach State built an 11-0 lead before a determined Arkansas side stormed back. Two second-half tries by fly half Jack Casey and an improved defensive effort proved the difference in the Razorbacks’ 22-14 win.

In the West Regional Final, Davis was able to replicate its day-one swagger from the opening whistle. Five different Aggies scored tries in the match’s first 30 minutes to build a 24-0 lead.

Casey would open the second half by getting over the end line to give the Arkansas No. 10 his third try of the weekend Still, Davis would respond with five more tries, including two from winger Brian Albin, for the impressive, 61-10, rout.

In the two consolation matches, Kings Point outside center John Wesley tallied 14 points and Kings Point upended Yale, 34-24. In Davis, Long Beach rebounded from its day one loss to beat Western Washington, 46-22. The 49ers received two-try outings from Roland Blackiston, Maximilian Rodriguez, and Martin Sanchez.

The successful Regional weekends for Central Florida and UC Davis pit the two squads against one another at the May 9 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University. Along with the D1AA Final, the Men’s D1A and Women’s DI and DII National Championship matches will also be played May 9.

Men’s D1AA Regional Playoffs | April 25-26

Match Score
Quarterfinal – UC Davis UC Davis 50-10 Western Washington
Quarterfinal – UC Davis Arkansas 22-14 Long Beach State
Quarterfinal – Founder’s Field Central Florida 50-15 Kings Point
Quarterfinal – Founder’s Field West Virginia 29-8 Yale
Consolation – UC Davis Western Washington 22-46 Long Beach State
Consolation – Founder’s Field Kings Point 34-24 Yale
Semifinal – UC Davis UC Davis 61-10 Arkansas
Semifinal – Founder’s Field Central Florida 38-18 West Virginia

Eight D1AA teams remain in hunt for National Championship

BOULDER, Colo. – Eight of the very best Men’s Division IAA teams will compete for a place in the College 15s National Championships during the April 25-26 Quarterfinals and Semifinals.

Pittsburgh’s Founder’s Field will host the East Regional, where Central Florida will take on Kings Point and West Virginia is set to do battle with Yale. In California, the campus of UC Davis will play host to Quarterfinal matchups between Arkansas and Long Beach, as well as UC Davis and Western Washington.

East Regional – Founder’s Field

Central Florida vs. Kings Point
Reigning National Champion Central Florida is back at it. After winning D1AA titles in both 2013 and 2014, the Knights again won the South Independent Rugby Conference’s South Division with a 5-1 regular season record. Inevitably, Central Florida ended up in its Conference Championship game against North Division winner Middle Tennessee. The result was a 48-10 hammering of Middle Tennessee at the hands of the confident Knights side.

Central Florida’s Quarterfinal opponent, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, have reached the Regional Playoff round with its 5-1 run in the Empire Rugby Conference. Led by senior Danny Ardis, who had four multi-try performances in the Midshipmen’s six league matches and led the Empire Conference in tries, will captain a determined and physical group against the reigning National Champions. Also known for its size and physicality, Central Florida will be happy to duke it out in the trenches with Kings Point.

West Virginia vs. Yale
West Virginia, who is set to join D1A Rugby and the Rugby East Conference next fall, will take one last crack at a D1AA title after winning the Keystone Conference for a second consecutive season. Following a 5-0 Keystone record and outscoring opponents 305-21 in the process, the Mountaineers beat St. Joseph’s in the Conference Final to earn a place in the D1AA Quarterfinal. Besides its dominant stretch of conference play, West Virginia also challenged itself with nonconference contests against Notre Dame College, Stony Brook, and two games against in-state rival Wheeling Jesuit.

The unlikeliest of participants in the D1AA Quarterfinals might be Yale considering its 2-5 regular season showing placed the Bulldogs in the bottom half of the Ivy League standings at season’s end. However, a South American tour ahead of the Ivy 15s tournament improved the skill and culture of the Yale Rugby program, and the Bulldogs beat Cornell and Brown in the Conference Semifinals and Final, respectively, to reach the first D1AA Quarterfinal in school history.

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West Regional – University of California – Davis

Arkansas vs. Long Beach State
The University of Arkansas proved superior to the rest of the Heart of American field after its 5-0-1 season. While the undefeated season was impressive, it’s the Razorbacks’ plus-233 point different they tallied in six conference matches that has the side looking like a real contender in the D1AA Playoffs.

“It’s the pinnacle,” club president Cameron Probst described to KFSM 5 News. “It’s what we came here to do. It’s what we play rugby for.”

Arkansas’ next test will be a round of eight encounter with Long Beach State. The 49ers have quietly become one of the most consistently formidable squads in D1AA following a fourth Gold Coast Conference crown in as many years. Even when it came to the Gold Coast Playoffs it looked as though Long Beach was unstoppable. A day after beating Cal State Fullerton, 74-12, in the Semifinals, the 49ers easily handled a quality Santa Barbara City College team by 30 points to claim the Conference once again.

UC Davis vs. Western Washington
Only a year removed from playing in D1A, UC Davis has enjoyed a massively successful first season in D1AA. Carrying a perfect 8-0 record into the Pacific West Conference Playoffs, the Aggies easily dispatched Sacramento State, 81-0, in the Semifinals, which earned them a Finals date with Chico State. Barely slipping past the Wildcats by three points in January, UC Davis showed immense improvement by routing Chico State by 30 points in the Conference Championship.

Western Washington’s 5-2 regular season record saw the Vikings into the top half of the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference table and into league playoffs. Hitting its stride at the right moment, Western Washington put away Oregon in the Semifinals and exacted revenge on Washington, which beat the Vikings in the regular season, by defeating the Huskies, 29-22, in the NCRC Final. In attack, Western Washington has been paced by center Nick Bonovich’s team-leading five tries.

The winning team from each region will advance to the May 9 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships to at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. Along with the Men’s D1AA National Championship Final, the Men’s D1A and Women’s DI and DII title matches will be held at the College 15s National Championships.

2015 USA Rugby Men’s D1AA Quarterfinals/Semifinals

Match Matchup Location Date/Time
QF #1 Central Florida v USMMA Kings Point Founder’s Field, Pittsburgh Saturday, April 25 – 11 a.m. ET
QF #2 West Virginia v Yale Founder’s Field, Pittsburgh Saturday, April 25 – 12:45 p.m. ET
QF #3 UC Davis v Western Washington UC Davis Saturday, April 25 – 3 p.m. ET
QF #4 Arkansas v Long Beach State UC Davis Saturday, April 25 – 4:45 p.m. ET
Consolation #1 QF #1 Loser v QF #2 Loser Founder’s Field, Pittsburgh Sunday, April 26 – 11 a.m. ET
SF #1 QF #1 Winner v QF #2 Winner Founder’s Field, Pittsburgh Sunday, April 26 – 12:45 p.m. ET
Consolation #2 QF #3 Loser v QF #4 Loser UC Davis Sunday, April 26 – 2 p.m. ET
SF #2 QF #3 Winner v QF #4 Winner UC Davis Sunday, April 26 – 3:45 p.m. ET