BOULDER, Colo. – Pools have been announced for the 2014 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship at Seattle’s Starfire Sports Complex. This week, all four pools on both the men’s and women’s competition will be previewed. Today, we take a closer look at Pools A and B on the women’s side.
Pool A: Berkeley All Blues, Chicago Lions, Philadelphia Rugby and Bluebonnets Rugby
Returning Club 7s National Champions and Women’s Premier League power the Berkeley All Blues headline Pool A. The All Blues would figure to be a favorite in Seattle, but the Bay Area squad might be more of a wild-card with only three players returning from the team that hoisted the 7s trophy in 2013.
While some All Blues players are taking a hiatus from rugby, others have been called on for national team duties. Katy Augustyn, Nathalie Marchino, Jocelyn Tseng, and Sarah Walsh are all representing All Blues for the Women’s Eagles at the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France, while Jen Sever has moved to southern California to train at the Olympic Training Center and will play sevens for the San Diego Surfers.
Even with the major roster shakeup, new sevens head coach Jacob Nelson believes the new additions haven’t missed a beat.
“When I took the job I didn’t know there was that much of a turnover, and I couldn’t tell at training,” said Nelson. “They get along, train hard, and buy into the system. I’m just learning recently that this is a totally revamped team.”
The All Blues traveled outside of the Golden State to find competition over the summer. In Denver, Berkeley lost a close match against the Mountain Selects, and at the Cape Fear 7s tournament they shared a pool with fellow Nationals participants D.C. Furies and Atlanta Harlequins.
There just might be a new force out of the Midwest to be reckoned with in sevens. The Chicago Lions, a club strictly organized to play summer sevens, is made up of several players who play their 15s for 2014 Women’s DI runner-up Chicago North Shore.
Kate Daley, who is currently captaining the Eagles from the No. 8 position in France, helped organize this sevens side. Although Daley will be busy tangling with the New Zealand Black Ferns to compete for Chicago, several of her North Shore counterparts will be trying to push Chicago into Sunday’s Cup round.
Unique to the majority of the field at Nationals, Philadelphia Rugby fields a team entirely made up of players who play 15s for their sevens club, as well.
After reaching the national round of eight in 15s this spring, they have tested themselves in sevens by running into both NOVA and the D.C. Furies at qualifying tournaments this summer. The results from a win-loss perspective have not gone Philadelphia’s way, but the team has been encouraged with the gap they have closed between them and their regional rivals, and hope they can peak in Seattle.
The Bluebonnets Rugby team is a select side made up of women from Texas and Oklahoma. The roster has had little time on the pitch together, and has been forced to test combinations and cohesiveness by fire. Still, the Bluebonnets were able to pull off a tournament win in Austin, Texas.
This Red River select side’s most important match of the summer came in the Semifinals of the Houston qualifier. After falling to the Austin Valkyries in pool play, the Bluebonnets squeaked out a double-overtime win in a match that had a ticket to Nationals on the line for both teams.
The win against the Valkyries was no doubt massive for the Bluebonnets, but did not come without a devastating blow. Lakysha Mosley, one of the team’s best defensive players, broke her pelvis and is not available for Nationals.
Pool B: San Diego Surfers, D.C. Furies, Old Blue and Mana Wahine
After winning a National Championship in sevens in 2012, San Diego just missed out on a return to the Cup Final last August in Pittsburgh. If the Surfers want to raise the sevens trophy for a second time in three years they’ll have to do so without Emilie Bydwell, Lauren Daly, and Shaina Turley, all of whom are trying to advance beyond pool play at the Women’s World Cup.
Luckily San Diego has had captain Katie Lorenz and Liz Strohecker to help navigate the team through a successful summer, including tournament victories at Sizzling 7s in Santa Barbara, Sunsplash 7s, and Tempe. Most recently the Surfers used the OASIS tournament this past weekend as a tune-up for Nationals where they took first place using the same squad that will head to Seattle.
Like San Diego, the D.C. Furies are a WPL side eager to be considered elite in sevens, as well. In order to do that, the Furies will need to improve on their sixth-place finish last year and advance out of Pool B.
D.C. has been able to hang its hat on a winning record over rival NOVA this summer. However, the Furies’ most recent result was a narrow defeat at the hands of NOVA in the Final of the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament.
Giving the Furies a boost this summer has been a wave of new players joining the club. The athletic additions include Rhi Clark who is a strong finisher and leads the team in tries.
Old Blue of New York has been in existence for half of a century, and the club now has a women’s side. And true to Old Blue form, the women’s sevens team is putting as much time, effort, and resources needed to be the very best club they can be.
Having a history of coaching girls youth and high school rugby in New York, the Old Blue coaching staff was able to draw a lot of interest from young but talented rugby players. In fact, outside of props Phaidra Knight of Women’s Eagles glory and England product Rebecca Ball, the team’s roster has an average age of 20 years young.
What the college-grade players lack in experience they make up in talent. Melissa Olman is a 2014 Collegiate All-American, Davon Thomas helped guide Tiger Rugby to a tournament win at Cancun 7s, and Tianna Camous pulls overtime at Lindenwood where she is a standout for both the University’s wrestling and rugby programs.
Mana Wahine will definitely take to the pitch at Starfire Sports Complex as a rather unknown product. The team comes to Nationals as the Hawaiian qualifier, but is a young and inexperienced group. Luckily for Wahine’s coach Jonathan Dimauro, what the team lacks in ball skills they make up for with aggressiveness in tackle and around the rucks.
Anna Orloski brings much-needed leadership and captains the side, while the Servelo sisters, Tatti and Lulu, have been standouts.
The 2014 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championships will be hosted at Starfire Sports Complex Aug. 9-10. All matches will be streamed live on USA Rugby TV. Tickets are available at $10 for a one-day pass or $15 for a two-day pass. Family four-packs are also available for $50 and include four two-day passes. Purchase tickets to #Club7s and find out more information regarding ancillary events at the Tukwila, Wash., complex on the Club 7s event page.