The Women's Club 7s qualifying season is upon us, so let’s review how each region is deciding their representatives for nationals and who we should expect to see in Pittsburgh.
MARFU is the example. The region has the highest participation numbers (10 teams have currently indicated their interest in nationals) and found a qualifying system that works for them.
It’s pretty unique really: The region doesn’t determine which tournaments are qualifying events; the teams do. A MARFU tournament is one that includes three or more MARFU series teams. Teams receive points based on their finish:
1st place – 4 points
2nd place – 3 points
3rd place – 2 points
Participates but does not place – 1 point
And only the top three points-grossing tournaments are used toward a team's season-end standings. So if, NOVA, for example, competes in six MARFU-eligible tournaments this summer and wins three of them, then they'll end with 12 points. The top eight teams move onto the MARFU Championship, held July 20, and in the event of a points-tie, then head-to-head competition, points differential at eligible tournaments, tries scored at eligible tournaments, and then converted tries at eligible tournaments will break the tie.
While the number of national seeds per region has yet to be confirmed, it is predicted that MARFU will receive three, which their depth of talented clubs can support.
NOVA 1 and D.C. Furies saw each other in the Lehigh Valley Cup semifinals last weekend, and the Virginia side skirted by with a 7-0 victory. It’s a classic battle that will continue throughout the summer and into nationals. It’s the third seed that draws interest, and we’re going out on a limb and saying Norfolk. Matt Robinette heads the 7s side, and if the team is serious about the summer, then we think their able backline will fare well at the higher level. Severn River is another team to consider, however, early-season reports indicate a more social approach to 7s.
After its inaugural 7s series last year, the Midwest has returned with a four-tournament qualifier. Unlike MARFU, the region has designated the four events that will allot points and decide the two seeds to nationals: Firehouse 7s, Lakefront 7s, Rock ‘n’ Roll 7s and Rock Hard 7s. The two teams with most points after the Rock Hard 7s will compete in Pittsburgh.
Chicago North Shore is not entering a team this year; however, the Chicago area is centralizing around the Chicago Lions. The competitive side will see well-knowns like Jenny Lui and Kate Daley join players from Chicago women and area colleges. We expect the Lions to restart the battle with the Youngbloodz, although the Minnesota-based team will be missing 7s professional Christy Ringgenberg and Katie Johnson, both of whom helped the first-year team to a 3rd place at nationals. Ringgenberg is out for good, but Johnson could free up after the Rugby World Cup Sevens later this month.
Both teams have national 15s players who are currently unavailable, including Lui and Daley with Chicago, and Stacey Bridges and Sylvia Braaten with Youngbloodz. Although they’ll be around during the meat of the summer, the Nations Cup in late July-early August will force any Eagles chosen to miss the club 7s championship. So it’ll really come down to depth for both sides.
The Midwest should only receive two bids to nationals, and Detroit, Madison and possibly Pittsburgh will be pushing the regional leaders for a trip to the championships.
Akin to the Midwest, the Northeast will hold a four-tournament series, beginning with the Eric White Memorial 7s, Monmouth 7s, Princeton 7s and Middlesex 7s. Points are allotted according to finish:
1st place: 24 points
2nd place: 20 points
3rd place: 16 points
4th place: 14 points
5th place: 10 points
6th place: 8 points
7th place: 6 points
8th place: 4 points
Unlike years past, there is no Northeast championship, so the two teams with the most points after four tournaments will advance to nationals.
For the last three years, the Boston Belles have been the team to beat, and with familiar names like Alyssa Green, Ali Pappas, Emily Malkin and Jess Peterson populating the roster, one is inclined to believe the same for 2013. The Belles lost handily to NOVA during the Lehigh Valley 7s final, and for comparison purposes, dropped a 22-0 contest to DC earlier in the day.
The Falcons are also from the Boston area and follow the same principles as the Belles – the only difference being that they’re focused on college-aged players. The Falcons struggled at nationals, but they’re young, fit and easily encouraged.
The Northeast should receive two seeds to nationals.
Three regions are using one 7s tournament to determine who attends nationals. The Pacific Coast is hosting its championship on July 20 in Seattle. It’s unclear the requirements for a team to participate in the championship, since there are no lead-up qualifiers, but considering the relatively low number of competitive, nationals-serious teams, it might be a come-one, come-all event.
There are only three truly competitive teams in the Pacific Coast: Berkeley, Seattle and the Emerald City Mudhens. And they all belong at nationals. Even though the All Blues didn’t advance to the final, they were the second-best team at last year’s club 7s championship, and by the looks of their well attended practices and hearty schedule, Berkeley seems intent on taking home the top prize in 2013. They’ll test themselves early with some friendly matches against 7s champ San Diego this weekend in Carson, Calif.
Seattle got an early start on their 7s season, playing up in Vancouver at the Midnight 7s this weekend, and the Mudhens are taking the same Canadian approach this summer. Emerald City is playing at the Vancouver 7s, Lighthouse 7s and Abbottsford 7s, all in Canada, where there’s a better concentration of good women’s 7s.
The region is expected to receive three seeds to nationals.
At present, SoCal has one qualifying tournament: Santa Monica Social 7s on July 13. But that might change according to SoCal coordinator Diana Henderson:
“Advancement to nationals is based on placement at Santa Barbara, but because there are now more teams interested, I have encouraged teams to hit one of two secondary qualifiers: Dirty's 7s in Palm Springs on June 22, and OASIS in San Diego on July 27. This is in case there is any question at Santa Barbara, and so the two best teams will represent SoCal.”
San Diego is the undeniable favorite in this region. As the reigning club 7s champ and only Women’s Premier Club in the area, the Surfers have a quality well of athletes. San Diego is attending the Palm Desert tournament, and then will head to either Dallas or Milwaukee, then Denver to diversify their prep for nationals.
Belmont Shore was the #2 SoCal team, and they made good use of high school standouts like Fallbrook’s Megan Pinson and Casey Karl last year. Both have been to USA 7s camps, but with Pinson heading to the U20 Nations Cup in England, Belmont Shore might have to rely on their club alone. Santa Monica and Ventura are also looking for a bid to nationals.
The South pulled out of nationals at the last minute last year, but the region is still getting a seed this year. It’ll all come down to one tournament: Hotlanta 7s on July 13.
Much like the West, it’s difficult to know which teams are actually gunning for the berth to Pittsburgh. Southern Exposure, led by Pat Neder, was the forerunner last year, but a late-evolving dearth of players precluded their participation at nationals. If the players come together, then the all-star squad is the top choice.
What about Atlanta? The Harlequins were more focused on preparing for 15s last summer – and it paid off, as Atlanta won the DI championship. This year has the potential to look the same, pending the influence of returning coach Jason Payne.
“We are currently just looking to be social,” Atlanta president Ros Chou said. “Our training consisted of working with [Georgia] Tech to prepare them for CRCs, but this week, we're ramping up for our own season. We'll be at Cape Fear and Lakefront 7s on the major tournament side. But, again, just looking for fun and social, unless we change our mind when Jason returns to us.”
Should Atlanta return to the fold, they’ll make a nice addition to the field. With Patty Jervey and Heather Hale out of the mix due to touch nationals, younger players like Jess Wooden and Tia Blosser (both of whom have been to recent national training camps) would lead a younger, potent team.
The biggest question mark is the West. The region did not participate in last year’s nationals, but Austin’s Wendy Young confirmed West representation in 2013:
“The West is sending two teams to Club 7s but there is not a qualification process at this time.”
Which makes previewing the region difficult, but if there is one team that would do well at nationals, it’s Glendale. The Women’s Premier League team is rife with Eagles, and would do well even without Hannah Stolba, Kitt Wagner and Sarah Wilson, who could be with the 15s national team at the Nations Cup in early August. Andrea Prusinski, Kandis Ruiz, Joanna Kitlinski and Gedda Rodriguez-Howard are just a few players who would contribute to an awesome 7s team.
If you're doing the math, the aforementioned regions account for 15 of the 16 seeds to nationals. It is rumored that the Military Selects will take the 16th seed. The all-star squad didn't come through in 2012 as expected, but since then, they've competed at the Las Vegas Invitational, and with nationals being on the East Coast (along with the majority of the military academies), the likelihood of their participation increases.
Stay tuned as we maintain the nation’s standings and results throughout the summer.