Halloween 7s hosted by the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. has not been derailed by Hurricane Sandy, but the storm has altered the competition’s makeup. The most notable affect was Army’s dropping out.
The tournament now only has five USA Rugby College 7s Championship-eligible teams, with Kutztown and Delaware entering two sides each to bring the field to eight and Drexel, not being a DI rugby program, ineligible. The small field prevents the tournament from being an automatic qualifier for the aforementioned championships.
Wheeling Jesuit, Penn State and American International College (AIC) are also expected to compete in Newark. Wheeling Jesuit and AIC, which have fallen short in automatic qualifying tournaments, will be hoping to catch the eye of the College Competitions Committee in an attempt to garner an at-large bid.
Army wasn’t the only team affected by the storm. Kutztown University, which sits about 120 miles from the Atlantic Coast, reopened Thursday after being closed all week, and KU players and coaches are still without power. Penn State closed early on Monday, and the Nittany Lions had to cancel some training sessions due to weather. Newark escaped the wrath of Sandy, for the most part, but some Blue Hens are stranded in New York and New Jersey, leaving their status for the tournament up in the air.
“It’s kind of a pain in the butt, but a lot of people are a lot less fortunate than us,” said Penn State coach Don Ferrell of Sandy. “It was a pretty bad storm, so I guess we were pretty lucky.”
Penn State still has a chance to automatically qualify for the USA Rugby College 7s Championships at the Big Ten tournament next weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Saturday is the Nittany Lions’ first 7s weekend of the year. They started training and conditioning once a week a couple of months ago, but ramped that up as the tournament drew closer.
“7s is important to us, and we are taking it seriously. It’s tough to balance, the way the current structure is,” said Ferrell. “There’s so many peaks. You’re peaking for 15s, and then you’re peaking for 7s three weeks later...It’s a tough transition to make. We’ve had a couple of bad breaks, but we take our 7s seriously. We are training 7s very hard now.”
While Kutztown players and coaches are without power, the team is getting a jolt of electricity back this weekend in the return of Tim Acker. The 7s All American sat out of games this fall to mend the ACL torn in Las Vegas in February.
“He’s been running hard and playing in practice just like there’s nothing wrong with him,” said Kutztown coach Gregg Jones. “Other than a freak accident, he should be good to go.”
Acker is one of the best, if not the best, college 7s players in the country, and he makes Kutztown the Halloween 7s tournament favorite.
The pools for the competition have not yet been released, but one potential match-up to look out for is Kutztown vs. AIC. South African Duke Makina was AIC’s flyhalf and top play maker last year. He left the varsity program under what seemed to be dubious circumstances last and is now playing for Kutztown.