This year marks the first officially sanctioned Women’s Club 7s Championship, and while a couple of territories are well versed in the qualifying process, others are still racing to come up with a seeding process and struggling to get interest for a trip to San Francisco in early August.
The Mid-Atlantic has been blazing the trail in women’s club 7s for years, conducting territorial championships since 2004. NOVA has been the most successful club nationally and has captured the previous two club 7s titles when the competition was an invitational. They’re getting great competition around the region, as five other teams (including NOVA 2) are officially competing for MARFU’s two seeds to nationals. The DC Furies have been excellent rivals for the defending champs and are expected to take the second seed.
For MARFU’s women’s division, any tournament that hosts three or more teams vying for a bid to territorial championships is eligible to award points. NOVA, DC, Severn Exiles, Philadelphia and Norfolk (and Keystone, which hasn’t indicated interest in competing at MARFUs) will fill out this Saturday’s Cheesesteak 7s’ women’s premier division. NOVA will be missing Eagle 7s stars Lauren Hoeck and Beth Black, who will be attending the USA 7s camp in Chula Vista, Calif., but the roster still boasts great attackers in Monique McQueen, Meganne Atkins and Brit Alexander.
The Northeast women’s division mimics the men’s structure and has designated three tournaments – South Shore 7s, Midnight 7s and Cape Cod 7s – as events that may award points toward the NRU Championship at Hell Gate 7s on July 23. The Boston Belles are currently leading the standings after finishing second to the NRU at South Shore and head to New York City for the Midnight 7s qualifier. The 7s-only team will be missing some big names like Katie Dowty, who will be attending USA 7s camp, but will benefit from the expert experience of captain Emily Malkin and Kelly Seary.
Dowty highlighted a few up-and-comers making the trip to NYC this weekend, in particular Jessica Peterson, who turned heads at the Collegiate All Star Championship.
“She’s an all-around player, really smart, really versatile,” Dowty praised. “Sometimes we have the luxury of having her at prop when we have enough skilled players on the roster. She's an amazing play maker and runner who can play just about anywhere.”
Even though the Northeast boasts a slew of 7s teams and has two seeds to nationals, only the Belles and New York will be competing for NRU points this weekend at Midnight 7s. New York will miss USA 7s camp attendees Jenna Flateman and Vanesha McGee as they try for their first points in the NRU series. The Falcons are in second place with 20 points after winning the Plate at South Shore. The four-year-old team is also based out of Boston but is primarily composed of college athletes. The Falcons head to Springfield 7s this weekend.
The rest of the territories aren’t quite as organized, or in the South’s case, are hurting for genuine interest. The men’s and women’s South championships will take place at Life University on July 16, but thus far only Atlanta is slated to attend. But the Harlequins aren’t taking their automatic bye to nationals easily. The team won Cape Fear 7s last weekend after first defeating NOVA, South All Stars and D.C. Furies, and then came from behind with no time left on the clock to win 14-10 over NOVA in the final.
Could we see a rematch of the DI club championship in San Francisco? It’s definitely possibile as San Diego will likely take the #1 seed out of Southern California. The union hasn’t elucidated the qualifying process for the two seeds to nationals, but according to SD president Kirstin Hartos, it’s likely that Belmont Shore will take the other seed. There isn’t a tremendous amount of women’s 7s competition in the region, but the Surfers finished second at last year’s invitational and should take the #2 seed overall.
Glendale is the only team that has expressed interest from the West, which also has one seed to nationals. They’re being whipped into shape by outgoing West 7s coach Laura Hertel and Tracy Gola. Sevens veteran Claire Gregorich is returning from ACL injury and 15s captain Bethany Zick is trying 7s for the first time. The two anchor a team that has seen practices surge with an average of 20+ players.
The Pacific Coast and Midwest are also vague about the qualifying process. The Pacific Coast has stated that a team from Northern California – likely Berkeley All Blues – and another from the Pacific Northwest will represent the territory. The Midwest has held a couple of events, and will decide after this weekend’s Lakefront 7s and following weekend’s Rock Hard 7s which teams to invite to the Midwest Championship in Elkhart, Ind., at the end of the month. But the region’s strongest teams – like Chicago North Shore – have already indicated that a trip to San Francisco isn’t likely.
So that’s where the women’s club 7s qualifying stands now. Outlined below are some predictions of which teams will advance to the championship based on interest.
2011 Women's Club Sevens Pools
A1 – NOVA (Mid-Atlantic 1)
A2 – Belmont Shore (Southern California 2)
A3 – New York or Falcons (Northeast 2)
D1 – Berkeley All Blues (Pacific Coast 1)
D2 – Atlanta (South 1)
D3 - ? (Midwest 2)
C1 – San Diego (Southern California 1)
C2 - ? (Midwest 1)
C3 – ? (Pacific Coast 2)
B1 – Boston Belles (Northeast 1)
B2 – Glendale (West 1)
B3 – DC Furies (Mid-Atlantic 2)