The Women’s Big Ten collegiate division starts up this weekend with all eight participating teams in action.
Most have been playing crossover friendlies with Midwest league teams and even each other. Notre Dame and Ohio State clashed last weekend, tying 30-30 in something of a barnburner. It wasn't a league game, however.
Here’s how the games look this weekend:
Michigan State at Michigan
Ohio State at Penn State
Illinois at Purdue
and on Sunday, Indiana at Notre Dame
“It is a big deal being in the Big Ten,” said Penn State Director of Rugby Don Ferrell. “No matter what other games our women’s team play, against top-ranked teams or other varsity programs or whatever, if they play a Big Ten school, especially now that it’s in a conference of Big Ten schools, it will be in the school paper and people will take notice.”
Penn State Head Coach Pete Steinberg has just come back from camp with the USA National Team, which he also coaches. Ferrell said Steinberg’s absence is nothing new, as he used to be away a lot for his consulting business.
“Now that he’s moved to State College Pete is here a lot more,” said Ferrell. “We’ve got a great staff of assistant coaches and they’ve been working with the team and haven’t missed a beat. Things are looking good.”
Chris Amoratis has been instrumental in working with the team when Steinberg is working on national team stuff.
Penn State has a massive squad and has been working on getting all of those players playing time. They are led by USA prospect Sadie Anderson at flyhalf, and a bushel of talented youngsters such as Lauren Barber, and BrieAnna Barto.
Penn State hosts a solid Ohio State team.
Head Coach Phil Payne said the 30-30 tie with Notre Dame was a good runout for his team. They used open subs and no overtime, and just looked to get some time in.
“Both of us have lots of Freshman,” said Payne, whose squad of 38 is the biggest he’s had in several years. “Certainly both teams would have like to have won, but it was neither of the coaches plan - speaking for OSU we have a development plan and we are sticking to it, ND was a fantastic host.”
The Buckeyes have several emerging talents, including Akua Adu-Gyamfi, a fit, and very fast player who were could hear a lot about in the coming months. Scurumhalf and captain Stephanie Bowers is in her 5th year at Ohio State and 9th year of playing rugby (she is a product of Parma HS outside Cleveland).
Powerhouse No. 8 Mary Jo Reddy out of St. Joseph’s is a tough player and reminds Payne of another Ohio State No. 8 – Sarah Wilson, who looks to be on the doorstep of a USA nod.
Up front Brittany Latham is among the best tigtheads in the game, and at the back fullback Alisha Gibson provides experience and athleticism.
Ohio State is now on the semester system, “like the rest of the world,” said Payne. That means the Buckeyes have been in school longer than they would have been under their old quarter system. That bodes well for their performance.
“We are going into this game [against Penn State] with our eyes totally wide open,” said Payne. “We know how good they are and we are certainly striving to close the chasm between them and everyone else. All I can control is us and we have a plan and we are diligent in following it.”
On Sunday Indiana takes on Notre Dame in an in-state rivalry match.
Indiana is coming off a 69-0 shutout of UW-Milwaukee.
“We play at Notre Dame which should be a really good game they have beating us the last two years,” said Head Coach Vaughn Mitchell.
Notre Dame is coached by former Penn State star Kate Daley, and she has the program playing with confidence.
Daley said her team’s friendly with Ohio State exposed some discipline issues, but she was happy to get some game time for all her players.
Against Indiana, she said, “we are looking to implement the game plan we have been working on through the beginning of the season and minimize our penalty count.”
Some other preseason scores (Big Ten participants in bold):
Purdue 21 UW-Madison 5
Iowa State 22 Illinois 15
Ohio State 30 Notre Dame 30
Indiana 69 UW-Milwaukee 0
Minnesota 54 Purdue 14
Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and UW-Madison aren't playing in the Big Ten this year.