Club 7s Preview: Women's Pool A

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Any pool that includes a reigning champion is going to be a tough group from which to qualify for the Cup Quarterfinals. That is exactly the task asked of Old Blue of New York, Phoenix Rugby, and Youngbloodz, as 2015 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Champion American Rugby Pro Training Center headlines their pool.

Reigning Nationals Champion American Rugby Pro Training Center is not only the favorite out of Pool A, but might be the overall favorite to win the 2016 National Championship.

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A year after going 6-0 on its way to the 2015 Club 7s National Championship in its first year competing at the event, ARPTC has reloaded with a new group of camp attendees for the summer and has not had its stride affected. Playing out of the Red River, ARPTC did not lose a single match during its three-event sweep of the region’s qualifiers.

The National Development Academy out of Little Rock, Ark., has not rested on its Red River results for Nationals preparation, either. Cup Quarterfinalists from the past three National Championships, Chicago Lions took a trip to ARPTC for training and a series of scrimmages in July, which helped the reigning Champions execute under pressure during a weekend free of qualifying tournaments.

Only half of last year’s championship roster returns to defend its title, including Eagle full back Jessica Wooden, but collegiate standouts like Penn State’s Sophie Pyrz and Life’s Christina Swift have filled in the holes nicely.

Youngbloodz are one of the most feared women’s sevens sides in the country – and it is not because of its name. The Midwest select side has qualified for Nationals for the fifth consecutive summer, and reached the Cup rounds at every event except for one.

The entire Youngbloodz traveling squad is made up of athletes from either Minnesota or Wisconsin, and this year’s team includes a contingent from 2013 Women’s Premier League Champion Twin Cities Amazons, but none more important than Sylvia Braaten. The 2014 Rugby World Cup veteran’s ability to get the ball into the hands of the Youngbloodz’ most talented ball-runners will be key to the team’s chances of cracking another Cup Quarterfinal.

Similar to ARPTC, Old Blue of New York‘s top side did not drop a single match during qualification process. The program commonly entered multiple teams into tournaments to test its depth and combinations before settling on a 12-woman team to send to Colorado.

The Old Blue side that will play at Dick’s Sporting Good Park has a similar makeup of the team that played for a 2014 Cup Final in Seattle. That year a group of talented college-grade players, guided by longtime Eagle Phaidra Knight, navigated all the way to the Championship match. This weekend, Old Blue will run out college players from top programs like Dartmouth, Norwich, Penn State, and Stanford, while Eagles No. 8 and Penn State Head Coach Kate Daley should be the skilled and senior presence leading her younger teammates.

Phoenix Rugby will make its first appearance at Club 7s Nationals this weekend. The select side made up almost entirely of players from Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, and the University of Florida placed second in the Florida qualifying process before settling for third at the True South Championship. The third-place finish was not good enough to qualify for Nationals, but Charlotte Rugby’s misfortune turned out to be Phoenix’s golden ticket.

Charlotte, which finished second at the True South Championship, was not able to field a 12-person team for Nationals, opening the door for Phoenix to makes its debut. The women from Florida will be the least known squad in Pool A, but, regardless of result, the young athletes will return to their college teams much better for having played at a National Championship event.

The 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships will take place Aug. 13-14 at Dick’s Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, Colo. Every one of the 96 matches at Club 7s Championships will be available to watch free of charge on The Rugby Channel.

32-team field set for Club 7s Nationals following Midwest, Pacific North Championships

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The 16-team men’s division and 16-team women’s division at the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships at Dick’s Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, Colo., have been claimed after Saturday, July 30’s, Midwest and Pacific North Championship tournaments.

The women of the Chicago Griffins will make their first Club 7s Nationals appearance after they downed Youngbloodz, 36-5, in the Final of the Midwest 7s Championship. The Griffins, although not thought of as regional favorites going into the summer, had won the previous two Midwest events and only looked stronger at Saturday’s Championship. Youngbloodz did, however, qualify for their fifth consecutive Club 7s National Championship when they defeated Chicago Lions, 28-7, in the Semifinals.

While the women Lions fell one win short of a trip to Nationals, their male counterparts will head to Colorado as the Midwest’s No. 1 seed after taking down 1823 in the men’s Final. 1823 quickly built a 12-0 lead in the Midwest title game, but Chicago kept its composure throughout, and earned a late try to win the regional championship. 1823, which finished fourth at last year’s Club 7s Nationals, will head back to the Championship event for the eighth time thanks to its 26-12 Semifinal win over the Cincinnati Wolfhounds.

Three-time defending Club 7s National Champions Seattle Saracens are on their way to Dick’s Sporting Good Park to defend the 2015 title after taking first place in the men’s division of the Pacific North Championships. The Saracens won their first three round robin matches before dropping the fourth to Olympic Club. The regional Final would be a rematch between Seattle and O-Club, but the team from San Francisco could not quite keep pace with the Sarries and fell, 20-14.

Olympic Club’s appearance in the Pacific North title game punched its ticket to Club 7s Nationals for the first time since 2012. Meanwhile, notable squads from the Bay Area like East Palo Alto Razorbacks and Life West Gladiators will only be able to watch Nationals from home this year.

Berkeley, Oregon Sports Union, and Seattle will each represent the Pacific North at Club 7s Championships after finishing in the region’s top three on the women’s side of things. The Saracens did not drop a game the entire day, eventually beating ORSU in the Final, 29-0.

The Semifinals of the women’s bracket carried incredible importance as the loser would be left out of the National Championship field, and the winner would join the finalists in Colorado. After 14 minutes of play at San Francisco’s Treasure Island, it was the All Blues that came out victorious over Life West Gladiatrix, 19-12, giving Berkeley the opportunity to make a run at a record third Club 7s National Championship.

Visit for more information on Club 7s Nationals, and to see a list of all 32 teams that will be competing for the men’s and women’s 2016 Championships.