As expected, Navy is heading to the Cup quarterfinals of the Women’s College 7s Championship. The Midshipmen advanced to the playoffs with a squeaky clean 3-0 record; however, that doesn’t mean the Annapolis side dominated their opponents.
“We had a shaky start but got better as the day wore on,” Navy coach Sue Parker referenced the 5-0 win over Northern Iowa. “By the end of the day, we were playing our game plan the way we wanted to play it.”
But that opening game against UNI nearly derailed Navy. Northern Iowa unleashed an intimidating brand of 7s that overwhelmed defenses with big but agile ballcarriers.
“Northern Iowa was really great,” Parker commended. “They have an unbelievable alertness of their strength; they were all strong runners and tough in contact. They devised a game plan where once they got possession, they kept it with a 15s style of play – go-forward ball with tight passes. It was effective 7s for the personnel they have. Coach Steve Murra is saavy; he knows how to make it work.”
If it wasn't for Katherine Smith’s try at the end of the first half, then Navy’s day could have evolved very differently. They got the win, but just barely.
“They were surprised in the first game,” Parker said of her players. “They were disrupted from playing the game plan we wanted and were struggling.”
Some of that frustration leaked into the Midshipmen’s second game against Colorado, which took a 17-7 lead into halftime.
“We tried to force things a little bit and made a few costly ball-handling errors,” Parker said of Navy’s first half against CU. “At halftime, I made them take several deep breaths and focus more on building composure and reminding them about what we do well. The great thing was that their confidence wasn’t shaken; they just needed a reminder of what they’re capable of doing.”
Parker was more than pleased with the response, as Navy turned that 10-point deficit into a 31-17 victory.
“It was a combo of personnel changes and fresh legs,” Parker said of the day’s turning point. “This group is young in term of experience in a venue like this, but their confidence keeps growing – even when we were down against Colorado at half.”
Even though Parker credited the come-from-behind win against CU to the team, she noted Erika Pedersen, who was superb in all facets of the game and put up some big points for Navy.
By the time Navy stepped onto the pitch for their final game against Harvard, the team had reinforced their faith in their systems, and defeated the Ivy League school 31-0.
“Harvard has a lot of weapons, but we were hitting our stride,” Parker said. “It was a great pool – it was hard, and everyone was good. We struggled with Northern Iowa because of their style of play, but our success over the day strengthened our conviction. We had a different attitude and mindset, and played with confidence against Harvard.”
Navy plays Ohio State in the Cup Quarterfinals and shouldn’t have a difficult time advancing if they can contain Akua Adu-Gyamfi, who scored five tries today. Should Navy win, they’ll face the winner of Cal v Princeton in the semifinals.