In a bittersweet ending to an inspired season the Tulane University women’s rugby side conceded the USA Div II Rugby championship, kind of. After capturing the spring season championship by defeating Humboldt State University 39-32 in Davis, California on April 23rd, the Green Wave was to return to California two weeks later to play fall season champion Davenport University from Michigan. A second trip to California in two weeks was a bridge too far for Tulane.
Division I fall champion, University of Connecticut, were unable to travel to California for the May 7th championship match against the spring champion because of conflict with graduation. USA Rugby cancelled the women’s division I and II national championships; although, it is rumored that Davenport will have the opportunity to play Humboldt State on May 7th.
This is not the first time the championship has been cancelled. The current system with fall and spring seasons and separate champions has proven on other occasions to be untenable.
DeepSouthRugby.net has asked several questions about the split season championship and how it evolved and if it is under review. We have yet to received confirmation of receiving our questions, but we have been waiting several weeks for an answer.
Below is our interview with Jessica Mallindine, Tulane’s coach:
How did you become the Tulane coach?
Two years ago there was an email that went out to the womens rugby community asking for help coaching by Tulanes coach, Woneta Stallworth, who was a grad student at the time. I started going out to help intermittently the Spring of 2014. At the time they only had about 8 or so girls and were trying to set the ground-work for a functional club. By the time Fall came around, they recruited a very large incoming freshman group and Woneta asked if I would please help her as their assistant coach, primarily to help with backs-related skills and general support as they started to play in friendlies and tournaments. In Decembe of 2014 Woneta graduated and they asked me to take over as their head coach.
I have been working with Tulane for two years. I have never coached before, any sport. I am learning as I go and we have, to a large extent, grown up together in the sport.
When did you feel the team could win the spring championship?
I don’t think I or the team went into the Spring Championship thinking we could win. There were jokes about it at practice early in the season but I think it was generally felt that expecting us to go far in our first year as a competitive club was a little out-landish and unrealistic.Our original goal was to make it to Regionals. Once we achieved that goal every game became about playing our best game so that if we lost we knew that we had played to the best of our ability and could away proud of what we have accomplished. It just so happened that our best game kept winning matches. Even right up to the Final, we would get get together and talk about what they could do to improve themselves or what we wanted to tweak to see if we could get a little better at a specific aspect of the game. Never once did we talk about how we were going to win it and to some extent I think that really gave them room to step onto the field with no pressure. Their only concern was that they individually and, subsequently as a group, gave it everything they had.
What do you think of the idea that the spring season winner and fall season winners sort out their own play-off by the end of … July?
I think, in concept, it is a great idea. The issue arises when you are dealing with short turnarounds to raise money and travel as well as factoring in missed class time. Particularly, with the Spring Champions, they do not have any time to prepare following their Spring Championship win. There are only a couple weeks to book everything and raise the funds. Given how costly the tournament up until that point is, it really pushes the limit on what a club ca reasonably do. Of course the other issue is timing. Both DI and DII teams backed out this year because of graduation, which falls on the same weekend. This Championship schedule as currently laid out will most likely always conflict with finals and graduation.