For the most part, organizers tried to keep local teams in separate pools, but that was unavoidable in Pool C, as MARFU is sending five teams to the Women Club 7s National Championship in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Pool C: Beantown (Northeast #2), D.C. Furies (Mid-Atlantic #2), NOVA II (Mid-Atlantic #5), Youngbloodz (Midwest #2)
The game we’ll be looking at is D.C. Furies vs. Beantown. On the one hand, you have Beantown playing in its first-ever competitive 7s season, but experiencing great success partially due to the caliber of athlete found in a Women’s Premier League club; and on the other, there’s D.C., which has fewer superstars but a more established dedication to 7s.
The D.C. Furies played the more intensive schedule and repeatedly tested their progress against MARFU rival NOVA. We’ve seen breakout performances from Hunter Griendling and Jaime Albarelli, and know names like 15s Eagles Laura Miller and Amanda Street. They revolve around the core of Liz Hirschorn, Eli White, Jeanna Beard and Jess Shipley, all of whom have been playing 7s for the Furies for years.
“We are very happy with our preparations over the course of the summer and have seen consistent and sustained improvement each week since our very first tournament at the end of May,” D.C. vice captain White said. “At our MARFU championships, we saw many of the pieces start to come together into a whole, and we believe our continued work will put us in great position to peak at Nationals.
“We are really looking to utilize our depth of skill and talent,” the scrumhalf added. “We are fortunate enough this year to have a wide variety of strengths. Our team goal is to play smart and play together to the best of our ability, and be able to execute our skills effectively under pressure.”
The Furies will play their most difficult game in the opening round against Beantown. What the Boston side might lack in overall 7s experience, they make up for in athletic prowess. Kelly Seary (who is also rostered) has been coaching the team, save a couple of weeks spent with the Junior All Americans in England. Captain Katie O’Malley is a USA 7s pool player, while Mel Denham and Tess Kohanski bring in high-level experience from the USA 15s pool. The player to watch out for, however, is Evan Hoese. The 15s center blossoms in the space afforded by 7s, and defenses will need to take particular notice of this attacking threat.
“The Furies in particular will be tough,” Seary said. “They’ve won some tournaments over NOVA this summer and should be fit and physical. The Youngbloodz will also give us a hard game though. … They are more of an unknown quantity as we’re less familiar with their players and style of play.”
The Youngbloodz return to their second national championship in only their second year of existence. However, we don’t expect the Minneapolis-based team to fair as well as their 3rd place finish last year. While the team’s fortunate to have Rugby World Cup Sevens Eagle Katie Johnson back and former USA 7s resident Kaelene Lundstrum, they’re missing Christy Rinngenberg, Sylvia Braaten and Stacey Bridges to the Nations Cup that is currently underway in Colorado. The aforementioned are unique players and not easily replaced.
But that’s what building depth is all about, and coach Sam Robinson is bringing a young team to Pittsburgh this year. In fact, there are only three returning players from last year’s nationals team. We’ll be looking at players like Katana Howard, who debuted on the international stage during the U20 Nations Cup in England this summer, for some insight into the youth that’s populating the Youngbloodz’s roster.
NOVA II rounds out Pool C. It’s a great credit to MARFU and the Virginia side in particular to be able to provide a fifth team to nationals, necessitated by the West’s late withdrawal. But as one might expect in a second side, there is a drop-off in performance. NOVA II will aim to be competitive, but with an inconsistent season behind them and their most talented opposition ahead of them, it’ll be difficult. Nonetheless, a second side at nationals is a commendable achievement for NOVA, and their goals will revolve around that fact.
Our predictions for this pool’s quarterfinal match-ups:
Beantown (C #1) v NOVA (B #2)
D.C. Furies (C #2) v Atlanta (B #1)
Youngbloodz (C #3) v Detroit (B #4)
NOVA II (C #4) v Seattle (B #3)
Pool A Preview
Pool B Preview
Pool D Preview