[CHICAGO, IL] – After two successful cycles of the Women’s D1/D2 Hybrid League, the Midwest Rugby Union’s Competition Committee voted unanimously to suspend that league in favor of a traditional Women’s Division 1 League for the 2023-24 Competitive Cycle. View the meeting minutes here. This change comes after several weeks of conversations with both hybrid and traditional D2 women’s sides who all seemed ready to move on from the hybrid model.
As part of the league restructure, the Midwest Rugby Union reached an agreement with the Wisconsin Women to relegate that side to Division 2 for the upcoming cycle. That leaves ten (10) women’s sides competing at the Division 1 level with five (5) clubs in each conference. Paralleling the men’s Division 1 competition, the women will play a home and away series within their league for a total of eight (8) league matches per season. This will be an increase from five matches in the Western Conference and four in the Eastern Conference for 2022. At the conclusion of the league season, the second-place team from each conference will travel to the top seed of the opposite conference in a semifinal playoff round. Those winners will then face one another in the Midwest Championship the following weekend.
Women’s D1 Eastern Conference – Buffalo Women, Cincinnati Kelts, Columbus Women, Detroit Rugby, and Pittsburgh Forge.
Women’s D1 Western Conference – Chicago Lions, Chicago Women’s Rugby, Metropolis Valkyries, Milwaukee Scylla, and Palmer College.
In addition to calls from many women’s hybrid teams to have a competition that mirrors the men’s top competition, the inclusion of new female voices on the Union’s Competition Committee also contributed to these changes. Following the departures of Amanda Cross and Janet Fitzpatrick in 2021 and 2022 respectively, the committee lacked adequate female input. That changed in late February when Teagan Hughes, Beth Wilson, and Clare Feneley were added to the group to accompany Brooke Scharffenberger (Women’s D1 Coordinator) and Dawn McKenzie (Women’s 7s Coordinator) in representing women’s competitions.
Teagan Hughes is currently working as the head coach of the Minneapolis Menagerie after playing for the side since 2015. In addition to her time on the Menagerie, Teagan also played for the San Jose Seahawks, and during her collegiate years, the Midwest Thunderbirds U23 and Iowa State Women’s Rugby. Teagan will serve as the League Manager for the D2 Women’s Western Conference.
Clare Feneley is a currently playing with the Lansing Capital Area Crisis Women and Midwest Thunderbirds. She’s a veteran of the Women’s Premier League (Chicago North Shore) and the Fox Valley Chaos in Wisconsin. Clare has coached both the Chaos and served as an assistant for the Michigan U23 Selects. During her college years, Clare played for Northern Michigan University and the Wisconsin U23 Selects. Clare is serving as the League Manager for the D2 Women’s Eastern Conference.
Beth Wilson joins the group from Dayton, OH where she plays and administrates for the Dayton Area Women. For the last two years, Beth has operated the Gem City 7s Tournament which has served as a Midwest 7s Series Qualifier Event during that timeframe. Prior to her time in Dayton, Beth played for both Nashville and Columbus Women. Beth will be joining as the Coordinator for the Women’s Festival League.
These fresh voices were able to articulate dissatisfaction from many women’s D2 sides regarding the playoff structure that’d been in place for the past two seasons. Under that model, any hybrid sides that did not earn a pathway into D1 playoffs were awarded seeds into the D2 playoffs instead. Unfortunately, this model didn’t produce the competitive equity the Midwest was seeking with many of the matches between hybrid and traditional D2 sides ending very one sided in favor of the hybrid teams. In the name of parity, the Union agreed that this model was not acceptable to the teams competing at Division2 and voted to end the hybrid in favor of traditional competitions and playoff pathways.
Any teams with questions regarding these competition changes or competitions in general should contact their league managers or divisional coordinators here via email. That information can be listed here. Team schedule requests are due to their managers/ coordinators by March 15th with draft schedules due to players by April 1st.