Girls (Rugby) High School Ranking #1
It's time for the 2017 Girls High School Ranking. The first edition lays some groundwork for future rankings, and is therefore lengthy. While many regions are active, there are leagues in the Northeast and Midwest that will force an expansion of the below list, but now, it's a Top 20.
How are the high school rankings decided? By considering a little bit of everything: number of games, margin of victory, fall accomplishments, historical strength for long-performing programs, tournament or 7s outcomes, traditional strength of league/region, roster size, opponent testimony, and more. And then nationals sets the record as straight as possible.
Unfortunately, not all of the ranked teams compete at nationals, and so tournaments like Nash Bash, NorCal Invitational, Midwest championships, and more are very useful in comparing teams across state lines. Generally, teams are ranked based on their current status and not where we think they’ll end up at the end of the season.
For example, reigning club champion Sacramento debuts at no. 8, because the Amazons suffered a 75-7 loss to Land Park on Saturday. Having seen the film, the Amazons have the bones for a good team, which is propelled by internationally tested players, but depth is needed. The absent Eti Haungatau would have made a difference, but not a 68-point difference.
The Harlequins start the year at number two, not just because of the Sacramento victory but for the NoCal invitational title that preceded it (read more). The Quins do a good job of being disruptive in tight and then quickly transition to offense. And their fitness is good.
But there’s more NorCal movement – which makes the region so energizing. Pleasanton has emerged as second-best, defeating Danville 50-10 yesterday night. Bishop O’Dowd, which played Pleasanton to an early-season 22-7 loss in league, impressed at NorCals and will play a friendly against Land Park on Friday night – a rematch of last year’s D2 final. Watch for flanker Shariyf Mayer and center Layla Scott to stand out.
But the top slot goes to Fallbrook. The Warriors finished second to Sacramento last year, but since its first of five national championships beginning in 2011, the SoCal team has been consistently good, and a tradition of consistency goes far especially in the early stages of the rankings. Fallbrook won this year’s SoCal 7s championship and last weekend’s Fullerton international invitational, but the strength of its 15s league season is unknown. ICEF isn’t fielding a 15s team this year, and South Bay will look to prove itself against the Warriors on April 1. Spartans coach Emo Pula indicated that the team will not be competing at nationals this year. (more to come)
United comes in at number three, but we think this squad of talented returners has the makings of a title threat. The Utah side was the breakout squad of 2016 and will test itself against Fallbrook in April. United posted a massive win against Herriman last weekend, so the Mustangs have some rebuilding to do.
The top-ranked single-school is not the team one would think, but is an example of some of the reaches these rankings must make. Wisconsin champion Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) comes in at no. 5 because it has had to peak already this season and showed they can perform under pressure (e.g., three-point win over Catholic Memorial in state championship). Yes, it’s been months since the Wisconsin league concluded, but the those fall-based teams will only get better, and many are building toward the Midwest championship and will be active again soon enough. (Michigan champ Grandville is a consideration for an add, as the fall-based Bulldogs are reportedly competing in the Midwest championship - more to come).
The reigning single-school champion, St. Joseph Academy, comes in at #13 for going 1-1-1 at Nash Bash. We know the Ohio squad brought varsity and JV teams and uses the tournament to spread out the playing time, but we’re taking tournament results at face value. The Ohio season is young and St. Joseph just needs some league games. That said, McMinn Tribe and Pennsylvania's Valkyries (read more) are rewarded for their good performances.
West End won the Frostbite tournament and did so in convincing fashion – save an opening-round game against West Carroll (which earned the Maryland side a ranking spot). The Ruckettes are competing in a diluted Virginia league, where it’s the only declared DI side, and has two varsity teams in the competition. The program is supplementing with several tournaments and returns to nationals this year.
The Oregon league started up last weekend and merged the single-school and club divisions back together for regular-season play. During the post-season, the divisions re-split. The Lady Barbarians defeated 2016 single-school champ Valley Panthers by 30 points, while Grant shut out North Clackamas 35-0.
Kent is dominating Washington per usual and spent last weekend shutting out 2016 state finalist Rainier Plateau. Same goes for Idaho's Capital, which is 2-0 in an expanded high school league. (On a side note, Idaho is hands-down the best site for timely results. So refreshing!)
The only team that will play no crossover games before nationals is Kahuku, but that doesn’t mean the Hawaiian state champ isn't set on mainland victories. Kahuku is currently undefeated and fielding two sides in the varsity league.
There are several teams missing due to inactivity, but once the New York/New Jersey, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Indiana leagues get moving, the rankings will adjust. Also, we made the choice not to include Colorado state champion Summit High School, because unlike last year, the Tigers won’t be competing at single-school nationals, so we won’t have that opportunity to gauge its placement. The Tigers did return to the LVI 7s, and if their schedule expands, then they’ll be added.