It's a nationals-qualifying weekend for many teams across the nation, as the Pacific Coast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest use Saturday to name their representatives to the women's Club 7s Championship. So far, Atlanta and the Combined Services have booked their ticket to Pittsburgh on August 10-11, and at least another nine teams will be added to the field in two days' time.
The fourth and final qualifier will be held this weekend at Grand Rapids' Rock Hard 7s, and the top two finishers will advance to nationals.
The Chicago Lions, Detroit , Youngbloodz and Windy City 1 will face each other in a round robin, and the top two finishers will compete for the title. The bottom two will play for third.
Though the Youngbloodz are close behind after a second-place finish last weekend, the Chicago Lions have solidified themselves as the forerunners for this tournament. The team may have had a slow start to the season, but they have clearly made up for that by winning the past two qualifiers.
A well known, successful program, 2013 is the first year the Lions have had a competitive women’s side. In the past, Chicago-area teams struggled with numbers and couldn't sustain organized 7s programs. This year, captain Kate Daley corralled those serious players from Chicago North Shore, Chicago and the Morrigans, to name a few, under the Lions' umbrella, and have benefited from the Lions' coaching staff, led by Jeremy Nash and Patrick O’Reilly.
Christiane Pheil explains how the team has come together this season to be such a success:
The great thing about our team is we have a lot of really dedicated athletes but no superstars. … We’ve all played a little bit of 7s, but what we have learned and developed over the past couple of months is a really strong team bond, and that is what has carried us into doing so well these past few tournaments. I think we had a moment in Milwaukee [at Lakefront 7s] where everything just kind of clicked. And our team, in that moment, we just kind of looked at each other and said, "Holy cow, it’s working! Things are coming together!" And that was a huge moment for us in terms of team bonding and seeing a result from all the hard work we’ve been putting in. We carried that through last weekend and just continuing to get better and improve little things. We’ve got a lot of work to do, for sure, the next six weeks of rugby, but I think we have a really good foundation to build on.
We don't expect any changes in the standings after this weekend; however, this is a possibility that the Midwest will receive a third seed, in which case Detroit would be a fitting addition.
Chicago Lions – 33 pts
Youngbloodz – 32 pts
Detroit – 28 pts
Sirens – 8 pts
Scylla – 6 pts
This Saturday the Norfolk Blues will host the Mid-Atlantic championships. The region will send four teams to nationals, this weekend being the determinant of those seeds. The DC Furies, NOVA 1 and 2, Scion, Philly, Maryland Exiles, Norfolk, and a Motley squad round out an eight-team schedule.
MARFU has by far been the most active region in the country, and NOVA 1 and D.C. have pushed each other – for the better – all season. They’re favored to take the top two seeds out of the region.
The real question lies in the 3rd and 4th seeds. Philly and NOVA 2 are certainly teams to keep and eye on – but don’t count out the Scion Sirens. Though most of the players focus on 15s, they are working on more 7s experience.
“What we lack in 7s experience, we make up for in work ethic and athleticism,” Scion co-founder Joanne Lui said. “We certainly find ourselves relying more on our general rugby skills rather than typical 7s finesse, but [coach] Peter Baggetta has been very helpful in transitioning our mentalities. Our roster consists of everyone from high schoolers to vets well into their 30s, and is a great example of the inclusiveness of the game and a large part of the reason why Farrah [Douglas] and I were excited to put this team together.”
Some players to keep an eye on this weekend: USA-capped Carmen Farmer, Penn State’s Elena Cantorna, NOVA 15s players Katie Gofus and Thelma Rodrigues, and Ida Bernstein, who’s been training with the USA bobsled team.
Should be an exciting contest between these three teams as they battle to join favorites NOVA 1 and DC for a spot to the big dance in Pittsburgh next month.
The Pacific Coast 7s Championships will be held this Saturday, July 20, at Magnuson Park in Seattle. For the women, it will be a four-team tournament with the top three qualifying for nationals.
ORSU, Seattle, Berkeley and Emerald City Mudhens will play each other during the round robin, and then the top two teams will progress to the final, while the bottom two compete for third.
We’re anxious to see if Seattle can repeat as Pacific Coast champion, as Berkeley brings a young but talented team from Northern California, and ORSU makes tremendous strides during their first season of 7s (read more). The Mudhens have Ashley Kmiecik back, but her influence won’t be felt at nationals if Emerald City advances (she’s heading to the Nations Cup). Seattle’s advanced to the finals of their last three tournaments, having won Can Am 7s last weekend.
Team manager and captain Jesenia Torres speaks to a solid team dynamic and strong coach for the team’s success.
“Evan Haigh, our coach, focuses on individual players’ strong points and total game awareness, which is what makes our team so dynamic and successful. We have a very young team this year and developing our rookies was one of the most important focuses of this season.”
Look for Carrie White, who Torres claims has “an unmatchable tackling ability,” to see the tone for Seattle. Also looking strong are Nate Serevi, the team wheels, and Kate McKenzie, a dynamic player who runs great lines.
Stay tuned for all of the results as they occur.