The Pacific Mountain Rugby Conference is a new DI women's college group comprised of three regions: east, north and south. Only the east region will contest games in the fall, and this weekend sees three of four teams bank their first league game.
The first PMRC east game actually occurred on Sept. 25, when Colorado defeated Colorado State 29-10. The east region is almost identical to the Eastern Rockies division that included CU, CSU, New Mexico and Air Force. It’s the addition of 2011 DI semifinalist Women’s Cougar Rugby that kicks the competition up a notch. And we’ll see how far the Cougars push competition when they take on New Mexico this Saturday. Colorado will play Air Force on Sunday.
WCR as expected is looking strong and still has notables like Star Bollinger-Monson, Kristi Jackson, Rebecca Siebach and Keelia Harker. The Cougars defeated Utah Valley and Utah State by obscene sums, and are looking good for their first league match.
“The preparation is coming along just fine,” WCR coach Tom Waqa said. “Metaphorically speaking, we reshuffled our left over cards from last season, and are reloading for the upcoming season. It is the routine process for us.
“We are excited for the upcoming season and league,” Waqa continued. “The new competition will help us for sure; these other colleges in our league will bring more to the game, and help develop our young players.”
Previously, WCR had an automatic bid to the DI Pacific Coast playoffs in the spring, since there were no other DI colleges in the Utah union. The Cougars used to fill their seasons with less-than-competitive matches against DII Utah schools and hit the road for tournaments in California and the Las Vegas Invitational. Joining the PMRC is a boon for the Cougars, and while the other former West teams will benefit from an uptick in competition, they’ll lose out as well. The former league used to have a home-and-way series that consisted of six games total; now teams will only play each other once for a total of four league games this season.
New Mexico has first shot at WCR, and being on the road will only hinder the Lobos’ chances farther. UNM lost Kayla Hammond and scrumhalf Amber Glassroot. Both were perennial all stars in coach Shannon Robinson’s eyes and their graduation has been “a heartache”. Stepping into the spotlight is flyhalf Emma McCaslin, daughter to one of the best American referees, Kevin. She’s been playing rugby her whole life and has been a big addition.
Robinson was unsure how the playoff seeds would be doled out among the regions and conference as a whole, but he assured that “hearts would be broken”.
“There aren’t enough seeds at the playoffs for the number of good teams we have,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be a slugfest. Everyone’s going to have to go through the grinder.
“We played WCR home and away long before our divisions joined,” Robinson said, “and they’re a load. Put on your seatbelt; those girls are tough.”
New Mexico has been to the big show three out of the last five years, so they’re not to be overlooked. The last time these two teams met was a little over a year ago, and the Cougars won 43-5.