Dartmouth Rugby has officially announced its schedule for the 2011-12 academic year. Tradition holds, as the Big Green look forward to competing in the 54th year of the Ivy Rugby Cup, vying to win its 12th Ivy championship in 15 years.
But there will be no shortage of changes from last year for the Big Green as the program moves into the USA Rugby Division I-AA 15s competition, as part of the Ivy Rugby conference, after separately taking part in the inaugural year of the College Premier Division (I-A) in the spring of 2011.
Ultimately, the decision to leave the CPD was made in order to manage Dartmouth’s academic mission in the changing landscape of American collegiate rugby, as well as to help grow the Ivy Rugby Conference, according to Senior Associate Athletic Director Roger Demment. "We are a Division I Ivy League institution. It makes sense that our primary competition be with our peer institutions,” he said in reference to the traditional fall rugby season for Ivy League universities. “We work hard to maintain a competitive edge with our Ivy peers. The Rugby East conference of the Premier Division was a great opportunity and experience for our team, and we look forward to carrying on matches with many of those same teams in the coming season,” Mr. Demment noted, in reference to having to play in both the Ivy League and the Rugby East last year. “Long-term success in collegiate rugby in the northeast will come from a robust Ivy Rugby league, among others, in which Ivy schools strive to field skilled and committed teams."
The Big Green will evolve on a bi-cycle periodization, as in previous years, aiming for peaks at the end of October as well as a second peak in May. The competitive window for the fall season remains the end of August through mid-November, with the spring season adjusting slightly to accommodate Dartmouth’s unique winter academic term and finals period, with play to resume mid-March following winter exams. The spring competitive window will go through the first week of June culminating in the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships.
“24 weeks of competitive play is about our max,” coach Alex Magleby ’00 noted, referring to advice from the team’s and college’s strength and conditioning staff, head athletic trainer, and administrative advisors in the athletic department.
The Big Green will open play this weekend against top international competition, hosting champion Canadian universities Queen’s and McGill as part of the biennial Dartmouth Rugby Classic.
The match against Queen’s University will be especially significant, as this annual match will now be played under the auspices of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU). MNU is an association of top education and research universities from around the world designed to help share ideas and best practices amongst each other. Besides Dartmouth and Queen’s, members include rugby powers Durham University (England) and the University of Otago (New Zealand), as well as the University of Tübingen (Germany), the University of Western Australia, and Uppsala University (Sweden).
On September 10th, Dartmouth will host the annual Granite Cup, a preseason showpiece for men’s and women’s colleges from northern New England.
The preseason heats up on Friday, September 16th, at 5pm, as Dartmouth visits long time New England rival Army in a repeat of last year’s CRC 7s final. “There is a great tradition with West Point,” coach Magleby remarked about the almost half-century of the Black Knights and the Big Green going head-to-head for supremacy in the Northeast.
The 54th year of Ivy League Rugby gets underway with a weekend road trip to Cornell and then to Columbia, September 24th and 25th. The Big Green’s first Ivy home match will be the next week, October 1st against Yale. The Yale match kicks of at 10:30am to start what will be a historic day for Dartmouth Athletics as football will have its first night game in it’s 130th year history.
After another road game at Brown October 8th and a visit from Princeton and then Penn October 15th and 16th, they will close out the regular season Homecoming Weekend (October 22nd) against traditional rival Harvard.
With the Ivy regular season behind them, the team will be done with 15s until the spring and thus turn its attention towards 7s. Two weeks after the Harvard match, the team will again be clashing with their conference rivals in the Ivy League 7s Championship in New York City November 5th. The winner of this tournament will qualify for the USA Rugby Nationals 7s Championship December 16-17th, although Dartmouth will most likely not be available for play, even if they win the Ivy 7s, as it remains outside of the college’s allotted competitive window.
Whenever they finish the 7s portion of the fall season, the team will have an off-season going into the winter, using the November through February window as the main strength development periodization phase.
Without the prospect of CPD play in the midst of March final exams, the team was able to expand time away from campus and as a result will be heading down to Argentina at the end of March for 12 days of intense training matches against top age-grade sides in Buenos Aires and Mar Del Plata.
If the team does well enough in Ivy regular season 15s play, the tour could be the catalyst to a national championship run. Supposing Dartmouth has finished in the top four of the conference, they will qualify for the Ivy Championship semi-finals on April 14th, where they will have the opportunity to play themselves into the next day’s final.
That match would be hugely important not only because it would offer the Big Green an opportunity to claim a 5th straight Ivy title, but also a spot in the round of 16, and potentially quarterfinals at the end of April. As long as The Big Green can keep improving and winning games into the late spring, they would move on to the semi-finals in mid-May, for the chance to close out their 15s season competing for a national 15s championship.
Following the rigors of the lengthy 15s season, the Big Green will have the opportunity to defend their crown in the 2012 edition of the USA Sevens College Rugby Championship, tournament June 2-3rd, again at PPL Park in Philadelphia. If they can pull off the repeat, it would be the perfect ending to what looks like a special season for the Big Green.
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