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 C and D on the women’s side.
Pool C: Atlanta Harlequins, Youngbloodz, Sacramento Amazons, ICEF OGs
If pools were decided by experience alone then the Harlequins would undoubtedly advance from Pool C. Patty Jervey has about as much international experience as the entire men’s and women’s fields combined after playing in five consecutive IRB Women’s Rugby World Cups.
Even if Jervey and fellow World Cup veteran Heather Hale aren’t in international form, they have still helped Atlanta to an impressive summer. At Cape Fear 7s the Harlequins beat the Berkeley All Blues twice, as well as topped the D.C. Furies and NOVA before falling to the Furies in the Final.
The team has a youth movement within the club supporting its more senior players. Most notably is 2014 All-American Lara Gartner, who played for teammate Rosalind Chou at Georgia Tech prior to Chou moving over to Life University to run the women’s upstart program.
The Harlequins will have to do battle in Seattle without some of their muscle upfront. Two of the team’s forwards were lost to ACL injuries, and a third – Lauren Hart – is also unavailable this weekend.
The Youngbloodz return to Club 7s after claiming the Midwest’s No. 1 seed with a tournament victory at Cin City 7s in Cincinnati, Ohio. Also victorious at Lakefront 7s, the Youngbloodz were able to defeat the Chicago Lions in the Final.
After winning the Plate at the 2013 Club 7s National Championship, the Minneapolis-based select side has added Jacie Vonada and Ashley Perry, who have had an immediate impact on the club. As far as returners, 2014 All-American Debbie Stenoien and capped sevens performer Kaelene Lundstrum are back with the Youngbloodz and playing at a high level.
The Amazons of Sacramento had to transition to sevens in a hurry after a historic season brought them all the way to the Women’s Division II National Championship match. Anyone familiar with the Amazon’s 15s program may be surprised to seem them in the National field for sevens. In Madison, the team relied on a structure of consistent crash balls and couldn’t keep up with the Pittsburgh Angels’ speed. However, the team has a prominent high school program that is evident on this roster, and provides youthful speed on the edge. Among them is former U20 performer and dangerous attacker Joanne Fa’avesi.
Sacramento joins Berkeley from the Northern California region. The two met in the finals of three consecutive regional tournaments, and the All Blues got the best of the Amazons in the first two matchups, while Sacramento won the most recent encounter.
The ICEF women’s sevens squad was a last minute revelation after UC Berkeley student and alumni of the ICEF youth program Lauren Butler decided she wanted to play sevens this summer with a few of her friends and fellow ICEF graduates.
The Old Girls, or OGs, as the team likes to be called, have an average age of just 19 years old. The team’s youth did not keep it from pushing the Women’s Premier League’s San Diego Surfers to the brink. At the Santa Barbara Qualifier, the Surfers needed a try with no time remaining to overcome the OGs. Several of the ICEF players have played some stiff competition while on international tours with the southern California organization that prepares its student-athletes for college. So the stage of a national championship should not overwhelm this group.
Pool D: Northern Virginia Rugby, Oregon Sports Union, New York Rugby, Mountain Rugby Selects
Northern Virginia, more commonly referred to as NOVA, are back at Nationals after falling to Berkeley in the Final last year. A perennial power on the women’s stage, NOVA seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time. After back-to-back second-place finishes in the team’s first two qualifiers, NOVA won the Mid-Atlantic Conference 7s Championship. The Conference Championship was even sweeter for the Piranhas as they beat a D.C. Furies team in the final after the Furies dropped NOVA in the previous two tournament Finals.
Lauren Hoeck is a former Eagle Sevens player, and recently was a part of Tiger Rugby’s victory at Cancun 7s. Co-captaining the team with Hoeck is Meganne Atkins, and another former Eagle in CJ Hildreth will be seeking a second straight appearance in the Club 7s National Final.
Following their 2014 Women’s Division I National Championship in 15s, ORSU is seeking a duel-code Championship sweep in Seattle. The feat would be very impressive, especially considering the club just began its sevens program last summer.
After a seventh place finish in 2013, ORSU returns the Club 7s National Championship with dynamic playmaker San Juanita Moreno, as well as the leading try scorer at the 2013 Championship Brett Zimmerman. The team will have to take the field in Seattle without Sharon Blaney, who is in France playing in the World Cup. Regardless, ORSU was without Blaney for its 15s Championship win over North Shore in May and did not seem to miss a beat without the powerful lock.
New York Rugby Club is seeking its first National Championship after winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. After falling in the Finals of its first two qualifiers, New York cemented its place in Seattle by winning the Blazing 7s Qualifier and finished 12-2-1 on the summer.
Both Vanesha McGee and Carrie White have donned the blue and orange of New York in recent years, but the two backline players are representing the U.S. at the World Cup. Still, the squad has captain and former Collegiate All-American Mary McCarthy leading the group around the pitch. Jess Berry and Nicole Humphrey have also been in fine form this summer.
The Rocky Mountain region doesn’t currently have a women’s club that makes a real competitive transition to sevens for the summer, hence the formation of the Mountain Rugby Selects, a collection of women representing a number of rugby clubs in Colorado.
The group hasn’t had a ton of time on the pitch together this summer, but the lack of preparation has not shown in their results. The Mountain Selects went a perfect 5-0 at Denver 7s, including wins over WPL powers San Diego Surfers and Berkeley All Blues.
Denver’s Black Ice club members Blaine Martin and Alice Plant, as well as Glendale Raptors’ Joanna Kitlinski and Rachel Ryan, have been extremely influential to this select side and have each played nearly every minute of every match this summer.
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.