Head coach Sue Parker will lead the Crimson in its first appearance in the Division I National Championship tournament (Gil Talbot).
National Championship Bracket
After claiming the Ivy League Rugby Tournament championship in the fall and collecting a pair of impressive wins this spring, the Harvard women's rugby team is set to begin its quest for a national title Saturday when it takes on North Carolina in the opening round of the USA Rugby National Championship.
Harvard's regional is taking place at Cochrane Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio, and the Crimson is one of four teams, along with North Carolina, AIC and Indiana, at the event. Other regionals are being held in State College, Pa., Marietta, Ga., and Palo Alto, Calif.
Play begins Saturday at 10 a.m., when Indiana squares off against AIC. The Harvard-UNC contest will follow immediately, and then two men's regional matches will take place at Cochrane Stadium in the afternoon. The two losing teams will square off Sunday at 10 a.m., while the two first round winners will meet Sunday at noon.
In the most recent women's collegiate Division I poll released by RugbyMag.com, Harvard comes in at No. 13, the highest ranked Ivy squad and one of the highest-ranked northeastern schools. North Carolina was unbeaten (5-0) at the time the poll was released and sits one spot behind the Crimson at No. 14. Indiana, one of two Big Ten teams in the poll, was ranked No. 9, while AIC, which handed Harvard a 56-19 loss earlier this spring, is the highest-ranked team in the regional at No. 4.
It has been a successful run for the Harvard rugby team in its first season as a varsity program, as the Crimson posted a 5-2 overall record in the fall and captured the Ivy League Rugby Tournament championship. In Hanover, N.H., for the Ivy Rugby Tournament, the Crimson cruised to the final thanks to a decisive 31-5 win over Brown. The championship game pitted Harvard against top-seeded Dartmouth, the only league team to best the Crimson during the regular season. Harvard had the last laugh, however, keeping the Big Green from scoring a single point in a 29-0 victory to secure the league title.
The spring season has seen Harvard compete in four games, resulting in a 2-2 record. The Crimson led off with a 22-5 win over West Chester, followed by a 56-19 loss to AIC. Harvard rebounded with a 105-0 pounding of Boston College, before dropping a road contest to Penn State, 50-12.
The Crimson earned a spot at the Division I championships in just its third year competing at that level, having elevated to Division I prior to the 2011-12 season. Harvard has captured a pair of USA Rugby Division II national championships, earning titles in 1998 and again in the spring of 2011.
The Crimson will have a tough test in its first round matchup, as the North Carolina Tar Heels boast a 6-1 record on the spring season. UNC kicked off its spring campaign with a 21-17 win over Virginia and, after a week off, went onto take down North Carolina State, 40-26, and Virginia Tech, 42-12. The win streak stretched to six games thanks to wins over ECU (17-5), Maryland (60-15) and James Madison (37-12), but UNC faltered in its most recent contest, dropping a 32-24 decision to West Chester April 6.
AIC is the highest-ranked team in the regional and has not lost to a collegiate team this spring. After the victory over the Crimson to start the season, AIC won the Four Leafs Tournament handily, and picked up wins over Northeastern and Brown. Indiana boasts a 6-1 record on the spring season, including wins over Florida State (50-10), Florida (24-21) and Indiana State (103-0) on its spring break trip. Its lone loss of the spring came Feb. 8, when the Red Storm fell to conference rival Michigan, 29-13, in Ann Arbor.