RUGBYMag’s Jackie Finlan and Alex Goff look at the women’s collegiate 7s nationals pools and make their picks.
The USA Women’s Collegiate 7s Championships will feature the worst number of teams you can have for a tournament, 11.
Who wants 11 in a tournament? Well, it’s better than zero. Minnesota and New Mexico pulled out and only UNC-Charlotte (but not Texas A&M?) was found to fill in.
Still we have some predictions to make. Here’s how we see it:
Goff: A lot of good coaching and talent in this pool – possibly the most competitive pool in the tournament. Texas surprised Texas Tech in 15s this season and could be a dark horse. Indiana can really run, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with Princeton.
Finlan: They have better depth than Indiana and their teamwork seems to be a little strong. They have more high-level 7s experience, having competed in the USA 7s LLC Collegiate Rugby Championships, and it’s that kind of experience that can put them over the top. Dot Mittow is a big, strong girl who’s played with the U20s, and was solid at the CRC. Flyhalf Lauren Rhode has a great foot and excellent vision.
Goff: Collegiate 7s is right up Arizona State’s alley.
Finlan: You could say the same about Virginia. UVA have CRC experience and have benefited greatly from the coaching of 7s experts Dana Creager and Beth Black. UVA brings back a superb finisher in Sharlyn Carter, as well as stalwarts MC Anderson, Jen Van and Julie Comer.
Goff: Cal may also find bliss in 7s. I always have thought their stumbling point in 15s has been depth. Now they can find their ten best athletes and go for it. UNC-Charlotte has split games with UNC-Chapel Hill this fall, and Santa Clara is another top DII program. The question is, can they translate that to 7s?
Finlan: It looks like Cal is really targeting this event and 7s. Co-captains Maricel Quirindongo-Crespo and Jennifer Sever are outstanding players – Sever is their 15s No.8 and one of their top try scorers, while Quirindongo-Crespo played 7s with Berkeley All Blues this summer.
Goff: With only two teams in the pool, they play each other twice. We’ve seen both teams play several times and Norwich ha more strong runners and better teamwork than OSU, and will show it.
Finlan: Norwich’s Emily Oor has impressed at the U19 level, the Cadets also have big-time scorers in Emily Baugus, Rose Bernheim and Joya Clark, to name a few.
Our Final Four
This seems fairly straightforward, then. Your top four teams are: Princeton, Virginia, Cal and Norwich.
Dark horses are Indiana and Arizona State, either of which has the ability to win the big game at the right time.
But those are our picks.
And to win?
Finlan: Virginia has more 7s experience than anyone, and I'd rank them as the best 15s team out of this group, as well. They've graduated a couple of talents, namely Erica Cavanaugh, but they can overcome that.
Goff: I like Cal. I like the level of talent they can concentrate on in the 7s game. Berkeley and UVa both have dubbed themselves the best public university in the world ... so this will be at least one place where they can see who's right.