The Women’s Club 7s Championship was treated to fantastic display of rugby, as the Cup Quarterfinals took centerstage on Treasure Island. Coincidentally the quarterfinalists that paired up were relatively familiar with each, whether territorial finalists or traditional rivals. That translated into four, bitterly contested games that were decided by two or fewer tries.
NOVA I and Seattle will see each other in their semifinal, having defeated the DC Furies and Emerald City respectively. Both were thrilling matches, but the Pacific Northwest face-off came down to the buzzer. The Mudhens took a 7-0 lead one minute in, when Christina Zier dotted down and April Fogel converted. Before the half, Seattle’s Asinate Serevi pulled her side within two at the five-minute mark, 7-5.
The Mudhens’ go-to finisher, Ashley Kmiecik, came through once again and extended her side’s lead to 12-5 with a try. With time winding down, Seattle’s Jess Torres scored and Carrie White’s conversion at least ensured a sudden death overtime, 12-all.
But sudden death wasn’t necessary, as Erica Black scored in injury time to put Seattle up 17-12 for good.
NOVA 1 and DC Furies followed suit and picked up the intensity level where Seattle and Emerald City left off. This game was epitomized by tenacious defense, both around the breakdown and covering breakaways.
“There were huge hits; it was vicious,” NOVA coach Dana Creager said. “People laid it all out and played this game like it was a championship match.”
NOVA I had made some adjustments from yesterday, using video from their 17-0 loss to Berkeley to guide the changes. In particular, NOVA was quicker to secure their rucks and were determined to use the width of field and spread the ball more so that yesterday.
It paid off about three minutes into the match, as the NOVA found itself in striking distance after kicking a penalty to touch. The ball worked out to center Lauren Hoeck, who cut back inside and stepped around defenders sliding toward the sideline. Beth Black converted the try for the 7-0 lead.
A lead that would hold the rest of the game. DC got one of its best scoring opportunities just before the half, working the ball nicely down the sideline and keeping it alive from the ground, but eventually ending the stanza with a forward pass.
The level of physicality began to take its toll, and handling errors increased, cover tackles became more prevalent as ballcarriers started stepping around the fatigued, and penalties continued.
The game ended in fantastic fashion, as DC stole a NOVA lineout in their end. They couldn’t get around the corner and NOVA eventually turns the ball over. Time had expired and Megan Hanson attempted to kick the ball out but missed. DC pounced on the dribbling ball but the game soon ended with a penalty to NOVA.
“Yes, we know DC very well,” said Creager, who will be coaching five DC players on the MARFU all star team in two weeks. “We know individual’s strengths and sometimes it gets in their heads. We can over-think it, so sometimes it’s better to not know them. But honestly, we were more focused on our gameplan than countering theirs.”
After their semifinal, NOVA watched video of Seattle, which was in NOVA II’s pool yesterday. NOVA advanced to the final four last year, but lost their semifinal, so they’re looking for some vindication.
“We’re taking one game at a time and not overlooking anyone,” Creager assured. “But we have a much stronger team than last year, more depth, and we’re amped. We’ve had all season to prepare and our focus has been nationals. We’re definitely looking forward.”
In the other semifinal, San Diego and the Youngbloodz will vye for a final’s berth. Report to follow.