It’s a West Coast affair in the Women’s Club 7s Championship, as the Seattle Breakers and San Diego Surfers advance to the final. Seattle eliminated NOVA I 12-5, and San Diego topped the Youngbloodz 19-5 during the semifinals for the berths to the final show.
NOVA spent the first few minutes in Seattle’s end, methodically working the sidelines and testing Seattle’s defense, which a focal point coming in the game.
“One area of improvement we were looking for was our defensive line,” Seattle center Megan Sanders said. “We knew they were physical, so we wanted to keep a nice, flat line and make them come to us. We knew if we did that, then our offense could stem off that and take it around the corner on them.”
Well, NOVA did take it to Seattle. A flat pass to Megan Hanson saw the NOVA player burst through the line, although Carrie White tracked her down before the tryline. NOVA was continually rebuffed – Lauren Hoeck was pulled back from the tryline, smothering tackles prevented offloads – put enough space finally opened up on the wing, where Katie Miller was waiting for the unobstructed lane to the corner, 5-0.
The Breakers answered immediately. The subsequent kickoff didn’t go 10 meters, and White took the free quick from the 50 meter and sliced through the defense. She handed it off to Parisa Asgharzadeh, who took off down the sideline to get deep into NOVA territory. The pass from the receiver dribbled to center Megan Sanders’ feet, but the power runner made the best of a dodgy situation and maneuvered through defenders for the try. White’s conversion hit the posts, 5-all into the break.
“That try was the turning point,” Sanders said. “We literally spun it from one side to another, and we had enough patience to do it. That was something we’ve been lacking the entire tournament, and I knew patience was going to change the game. I hope we carry that into our final game. If we can do that we’ll win.”
The second half began in exciting fashion, as Hanson and White exchanged long breaks that turned into turnovers. Hoeck took one such break down the sideline but couldn’t connect with support as she was eventually taken down. Two quick penalties later, and Seattle had erased all of territory gained, and the Breakers found themselves deep in NOVA’s end. More penalties allow Seattle to keep the ball in hand, and Sanders was the eventual recipient of a quick-tap sent weak. The dive-over try and White conversion gave Seattle the final lead, 12-5.
NOVA had a shot with no time left on the clock. A penalty kick didn’t reach touch, and Miller crossed the pitch from the 40 meter at full speed. It looked promising, as she hit Hanson, but what appeared like a high tackle that resulted in a knock-on, gave Seattle the scrum and final kick to touch.
“We didn’t do so well last year, but that was our first year playing 7s,” Sanders said. “We had some extra personnel come in this year, and we also have Evan Haigh. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, and I’ve play a lot of sports. He pushes us like he pushes the guys – it’s a more physical game plan – and it’s fun learning his style.”
Seattle’s preparing for their sixth game of the day, set to kick off at 5:00 p.m. PST against the Surfers, but Sanders is worried about fatigue.
“We noticed last year that from game one to the last game, we play our best game at the end,” Sanders said. “We’re in good shape but our style of play continues to improve and our confidence keeps going up, so we’re excited to play our hardest game last.”
It’s difficult to think that a team could get better than an overtime win over the All Blues, but that’s exactly what San Diego is doing. After a 10-5 win over Berkeley in the Cup quarterfinals, the Surfers had a bit of an easier run against the Youngbloodz for a 19-5 win. Seattle defeated Berkeley in the Pacific Coast Championship, so they will indeed be facing their toughest competition in the final.
Katie Lorenz set up the first try for San Diego when she quick-tapped from inside her 22m and slipped through the indecisive defense. It took the Youngbloodz’s Katie Johnson 80 meters to close the gap, but she did and prevented the breakaway try. Hannah Lopez was there in support but she couldn’t position herself in a spot for the offload. But a penalty in the breakdown allowed another quick-tap, and the ball moved to space for Ryan Carlyle to mosey in beneath the posts. Val Griffeth slotted the extras for the 7-0 lead.
The Youngbloodz were just as capable as dancing through the open space, but they had issues finishing – missing a looping player or sending a wide pass into touch.
In the second half, a pretty little try evolved between Carlyle, Griffith and eventual try-scorer Emilie Bydwell. The trio followed each other tightly through traffic, offloading to a support player running at pace before diving over for the five-pointer.
Cara Nocera dotted down as regulation expired, an opportunity that evolved with a scrum inside the 22 meter was blown up and a free kick awarded. Griffeth sent the ball weak to Nocera who scored in the corner, 19-0.
San Diego sent the final kickoff straight into touch. Determined to break the shutout, the Youngbloodz threw everything they had in the final possession, and Sylvia Braaten did well to get her side inside the 22 meter. Christy Ringgenberg looked like she had a line to the corner, but Lopez smothered her meters short. It was enough, as a phase later, they got their try, 19-5.
The two will face each in two hours time. Stay tuned.