The UC Davis v Oregon State match tomorrow kicks off the official season of the Pacific Mountain North Conference. It’s one of three new conferences under the Pacific Mountain umbrella and consists namely of former DI Northern California teams and the two former Pacific Northwest teams – OSU and Oregon.
Both Oregon teams have only had each other to play when determining the seed to territorial championships, so this move to a more complete, competitive season will better prepare them for post-season play, should they advance.
“I'm really excited about this new league season, and so is the team,” OSU coach Dave Dickson said. “I'm definitely having some anxiety about it, though, as I honestly have no idea how it's going to go. I'm optimistic and I anticipate we'll be competitive with most of the teams in the league; many of the games could go either way.”
OSU will be relying on the standout performances of flyhalf Hannah Lockwood, who recently attended the high performance players camp in Florida, and No. 8 Amee Svatos, who plays flanker for the USA U20s.
Inside center Caroline Midkiff and fullback Elizabeth Freund are flying underneath the national radar, according to Dickson, and will make a good impact this season.
“Midkiff is a very powerful runner with very good hands,” Dickson said. “She is always dangerous when she gets her hands on the ball. Freund has aspirations for the national 7s team, and I believe she has the talent, but she's been battling some unlucky injuries as of late. As it always goes in this sport, she could have a great season if she avoids injury.”
OSU also has some promising newcomers who could give the team some extra punch, in particular outside backs Emma Krnacik and Kim Nguyen. Krnacik was a DI soccer player for OSU who has transitioned to rugby. She’s very fast and loves to tackle. Nguyen is new to OSU but not to rugby. She transferred from Reed College, is very quick and a dynamic runner.
“I have the pair at outside center and wing and I'm very curious to see how they do,” Dickson said. “They have plenty of athletic talent. It's now a matter of quickly getting them up to speed on some of the strategic details of rugby.”
UC Davis might find its edge in the forwards, especially since OSU has lost a couple of key players in its scrum. Kiana Saluni and Haley Dietz are out for the season with shoulder injuries, and their veteran leadership will be greatly missed up front.
Davis played in the Stanford Invitational last weekend and finished fifth. While it’s still too early to tell how their performance reflects on their season prospects, Davis doesn’t seem to have the firepower it did last year. On day one, UCD lost a close match to Chico (14-7), which finished fourth, defeated DII team Western Washington 15-7, and then were trampled 70-0 by Cal. Davis defeated DII team Sacramento State 12-5 during playoffs before downing Colorado 12-7 for fifth.
Both teams seem to be undergoing rebuilding years, but OSU is looking at its young squad in positive terms.
“One thing I'm very excited about is the fact that at the end of this season, we are graduating precisely one senior,” Dickson said. “This is a very young team, so it bodes well for our future.
“Regardless of outcome, if we can simply be competitive, I will regard the season as a success,” Dickson concluded. “We'll see how it goes!”