Bowling Green, Ohio, welcomes Pool D of the Women's DI College Championships. Perennial Final Four-er Brown leads the pack and takes on Midwest champ Michigan in the first round, while MARFU #2 takes on UC Davis battle for the berth to the quarterfinals.
Brown is the favorite to exit out of this pool with a trip to the Final Four in two weekends, but it won't be an easy road. As the Northeast #2 seed, they'll first need to get past Michigan, and coach Herb Reich has his head wrapped around how to best challenge their first-round draw.
"Brown is a well drilled and discipline team," Reich said. "They show excellent composure and can move the ball into space and do not make many mistakes. I expect the battle at the breakdown to tell the story of who comes out on top. The contact area is going to be critical for both teams. It will be a very entertaining game and the team that shows up ready and cuts down on errors will be on top at the end."
Michigan has refined its games against top women's clubs, including Chicago, Chicago North Shore and Detroit, and is prepared for the physical game that Brown will assuredly bring. Look for captain Michelle Wong to lead Michigan's charge.
Brown coach Kerri Heffernan has taken the lessons of previous appearances at nationals, and realized that teams with better handling and ball movement have prevailed. So that's what Heffernan has been focusing on these past few weeks. With the help of assistant coach and Eagle Emilie Bydwell, the backs are looking as fierce as ever. Players like the smart, bold Blaine Martin, speedy wing Shakeela Faulkner, and All American Izzy McKinnon will challenge Michigan's defense.
"Michigan looks good on film - big, aggressive in the forwards," Heffernan assessed. "On defense we have been focusing on the contact area - organizing our defense and a strong launch to contain the big girls around the fringes.
"I'm feeling good about us right now," Heffernan continued. "We have everyone back and looking good. We are hoping for a rematch with UVA - we like them - they have talent, confidence and a nice 'come after you' attitude."
Heffernan is referring to a spring break match in which UVA defeated Brown. Virginia is, as always, a small, quick and smart team, and will give UC Davis an excellent match in the first round of playoffs. UVA has a great back row, led by tenacious flankers MC Anderson and Rosa Bauer-Moshi, and all-star backline led by power wing Erica Cavanaugh. Wing Minna Choi is a big finisher for the squad, and gets great support from Sharlyn Carter and fullback Amber Coffman.
UC Davis is missing some key players, but will rely on the pace-setting work of All American scrumhalf Delaney Chapman to set the tone. Strikers like Ahija Moore will also be difficult to contain.
"Overall, I'm feeling good about the team traveling to Ohio," Neevel said. "We really do not know much about UVA other than this time of year anybody still playing rugby has earned their way to the 16 and will present challenges," Seth said. "We have been focusing on basic fundamentals and polishing up what we have been doing all year. We feel our regular season and PCRFU playoffs have prepared us well and now all that is left is to put together a full 80 minutes."
Read more about Pool A, Pool B and Pool C.
Pool D Round of 16 - Bowling Green, Ohio
Game 1 - 12pm: Brown v Michigan
Game 2 - 12pm: UVA v UC Davis
Game 3 - 12pm: Game 1 loser v Game 2 loser
Game 4 - 12pm: Game 1 winner v Game 2 winner