Women's Club Sevens Pool Preview

The 2018 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship kicks off this weekend at 10am on August 11 at the Baker Athletic Complex, in New York City. For those who can’t make it out to the games, coverage will be provided by Flo Rugby

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Pool A:

Life West Gladiatrix:

While still a relatively new program, Life West Gladiatrix have proven to be one of the most dominant teams in the country. They have been undefeated in fifteens since 2016, and signs are pointing toward them being just as impressive in sevens. This year in qualifications, they were able to finish atop of the Pacific North seeing off Washington Athletic in the Pacific North Championship, 24-12. They finished third last year, and undoubtedly will be motivated to go out and take more than the bronze this weekend. By securing the sevens Championship, they will become the first women’s team to win both the Division I title in fifteens and the sevens national championship in the same year. While history may not be on their side talent certainly is, with four capped Eagles and three collegiate All-Americans rostered, they’ll be an imposing team to whoever they face.

D.C. Furies:
As the adage goes, good things come to those who wait. For the D.C Furies, that has certainly been the case this season. After falling just short of winning their opening two qualifiers, in the Mid-Atlantic region, they were able to right the ship, and put it all together in their final tournament. Although the damage had been done, in terms of seeding implications, the Furies are confident coming into the weekend on the back of such an impressive display their last outing. What makes the Furies even more threatening this weekend is not only has their team been causing a furor, but individual athletes have also been in fine form; notably Lauran Glover who tallied a trio of tries in the WPL All-Star Game. The Furies could be one of the big surprises in 2018.

Rocky Mountain Magic:
In their inaugural year, the Rocky Mountain Magic have made their way into the National Championship, via the Frontier’s sole women’s qualification spot. The Magic are probably the hardest to judge going into the tournament. Reason being, they have only played one tournament, and in that tournament, they only played three games. While they have not had an abundance of playing time this year, the Magic’s roster is stacked with talent. Their roster has four former college stand outs, including three All-Americans and a WPL All-Star. With limited time under their belt, consistency will be the key to seeing how far the Magic can go.


Phoenix Rugby (Florida):
Rounding out Pool A is Phoenix, a team coming into the tournament after a two month hiatus. They snagged the second qualifying spot in the South, but were competitive with the first seed, Atlanta Harlequins, throughout the process. Delays of such significant stature can be a blessing or a curse, as it allows players to rest, heal and familiarize themselves with the systems more, but lack of competitive play can cause rust and lack of match fitness. It will be interesting to see how Phoenix responds to their delay.


Pool B:

San Diego Surfers:
One of the most decorated women’s sevens programs of all time, the San Diego Surfers will be hoping to go one better than last year, and become the first women’s team to win three sevens national championships. They have been in vintage form this year, breezing past their Pacific South competition without much of a thought, winning both qualifying tournaments without dropping a game. They are led by three capped Eagles in Megan Foster, Hunter Griendling and Tia Blythe, with a battery of collegiate and WPL standouts right behind them. They’ll be a favorite to win it all, but at the end of the day… It’s still sevens.

Chicago Lions:
The Chicago Lions have been a constant presence on the national sevens circuit, but have been unable to advance from the quarterfinals. That could change this year. The Lions have been in fine form this year, qualifying first in a competitive and evenly matched Midwest competition. They recovered from a minor hiccup in their first tournament to run the table and eventually win the Midwest Championship. They’ll face a tall order getting out of their pool though, as there is a total of four national championships within their pool; but with the run of form they’re currently enjoying, the Lions won’t be fazed.


Berkeley All Blues:
Two-time sevens National Champion, the Berkeley All Blues enter this weekend as the third seed from the juggernaut that is the Pacific North. It has been a while between celebratory drinks for the All Blues, with their last championship coming in 2013, and their last semifinal appearance coming in 2015. However, after playing against some of the best teams in the country over the past few months, they’ll feel poised about their chances of going on another run. There is a healthy balance of experience and youth in this team, which will serve them well. If the All Blues can make it out of the pool stages, don’t be surprised to see them go on a deep run in the tournament.

American Rugby Pro White:
American Rugby Pro (ARPTC) qualified two teams into nationals this year the Blue, and White team. The White team finds themselves in Pool B. They arrived by virtue of qualifying as the second team in Red River. ARPTC White will be looking to make up for their just shy of legendary ending to the qualifying season, where they were unable to reach the championship game of their final qualifier. After finishing second and first, respectively, in their first two qualifiers ARPTC White were unable to find their way back into the championship round of the final Red River qualifier. The APRTC’s White team has shown what they’re capable of, but this weekend it come down to their ability to harness their potential. If they can do that they could very well be the second team to bring a National Championship back to the ARPTC headquarters.


Pool C:

Washington Athletic:
The reigning champions are back, albeit under a different banner this year, as the women from Seattle look to bring Washington Athletic some silverware. The team is packed to the rafters with talent including capped Eagle, Kristine Sommer, and a contingent of players from last year’s championship squad returning to the mix. Not only does the team have returning talent, but they have one of the most experienced squads in the competition. The average player on WAC has seven years rugby playing experience, some have had a decade long career. With such a matured and well-seasoned side, don’t be surprised if they start to pull away from teams in close games at the death, as their knowledge becomes an invaluable asset. They are one of the big contenders to walk away with the championship this weekend, and rightly so.


New York Rugby Club:
Acting as the sole representative of the Empire State on the women’s side of the competition is, the Northeast’s number-one seed, New York Rugby Club (NYRC). It has already been a successful season for the women from the Big Apple, as they have run through their qualifying season undefeated and hardly conceded any points. While their best finish to date was last year, when they finished fifth, they look primed to take the competition by storm this year. They are an intimidating team as a whole, but they have some
individual standouts including Eagle, Jessica Davis, and 2017 WPL MVP Gio Cruz. Things have seemingly clicked for NYRC thus far and they will be able to gauge just how much they’ve developed in their final game of Day 1 when they take on WAC. That match could easily be a preview into the final of the women’s competition on Sunday.


Atlanta Harlequins:
Pool C could easily be considered to be the toughest pool in the competition with based off of having WAC and NYRC alone, but throw the Atlanta Harlequins, winner of the Southern region, into the mix it pushes the debate beyond a doubt. The Harlequins find themselves against some stiff opposition early on, however, if there is a team capable of handling a challenge like this it’s the Harlequins. This weekend will mark their fifth entry into the national championships, and they’ll be hoping that they’ll be able repeat and improve on their efforts of 2013 where they finished fourth. If they are to stand any chance of doing so, they’ll need to rely on the likes of their WPL All-Star Monique Compito. The electrifying center will be the key to igniting the Harlequins offense, if she plays to her full potential the Harlequins could cause havoc to anyone they come up against.


Northern Virginia Rugby:
Historically, Northern Virginia Rugby (NOVA) has been one of the top teams in the country, making it to the semifinals in each of the first four years of the tournament; however, in the ensuing years they have not been able to reach the same illustrious heights. If they are to reach the semifinal stages once again they’ll get there by following the lead of two of their most experienced players, Lauren Hoeck who played on the national sevens team and Kathryn Hemlock, who was with the team when they finished second in 2013. Their experience is nicely flanked by a team that has an abundance of youth, with several of the players coming in under the age of 25. NOVA has their work cut out for them, but given the nature of sevens and the talent on their squad don’t be surprised if you see NOVA coming through the championship bracket on Sunday.



Pool D:

American Rugby Pro Blue:
Red River’s top seed and the second of the two ARPTC teams to feature in the 2018 national championship is ARPTC’s “Blue” Team. They went through Red River qualifying winning two out of the three tournaments and are looking dangerously good. In 2015 they were crowned champions, the following year they finished 3rd; but last year they fell to sixth. If they are to find their way back to the ways of yesteryear they’ll look to the leadership of Eagle, Abby Vestal who was on the side that won it all. Vestal may be the seasoned veteran on the team, but there is still plenty of game changers scattered throughout the squad including Gurpreet Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal a native of Canada has been one of the most successful players in Canadian College history. Earlier this year with the University of Victoria she won the Canada West sevens championship and last year she won the national championship. Look for both Vestal and Dhaliwal to be the catalysts for ARPTC Blue’s success over the weekend.


Scion Sirens:
Another former national champion lies within Pool D, the Scion Sirens. The Sirens were the top team in the country in 2016 and last year made it as far as the semifinals but were unable to win another game after reaching that stage. This year they’ve been pushed constantly through the qualifying season. Playing in the Mid-Atlantic has provided the Sirens with a high level of competition throughout the season and has primed them nicely for another run at the title. One of the factors to their success this weekend will come down to how their players with international experience perform. Scion is littered with international talent, from capped Eagle Alycia Washington to Irish standouts Aimee Clarke and Daisy Earle. While the two Irishwomen may be the two youngest on the squad, they are both capable of ripping off big plays and breaking the game open and will play a major role in their team’s fortunes this weekend.


Metropolis Rugby:
The second seed from the Midwest, Metropolis Rugby, could be one of the big surprise stories this year coming out of the tournament this year.  They pushed the Lions consistently over the course of the Midwest qualifying season, however, they did lack consistency. They started their sevens season in fine form winning the first event, but they then slipped to second and third in the next two tournaments, respectively. They were able to sort themselves out in the championship, but they remain a wildcard going into the weekend. They have the talent to take them to deep into the tournament with players like Capped Eagle Libby Berg, and U20 Eagle Katana Howard, but their chances of success hinge on the support that these two receive from the rest of the team. If all seven players are firing on all cylinders then they are a force to be reckoned with. If they don’t get a full team performance it is hard to say where they’ll go.


Boston Rugby:
The women of Boston Rugby return for their third crack at the national title. After their first two attempts proved fruitless, they’ll hope that this is their chance to make a run out of it. They arrived at the tournament in dramatic fashion, playing what was essentially a “win and you’re in” game against Beantown Rugby. One of the factors working in favor of Boston is their high level of experience. With the exception of one player, all of their team has been playing rugby for at least four years, the majority playing for eight or more. With that a well of knowledge that deep on a team do not be surprised if Boston pulls out some wily maneuvers this weekend and causes and upset or two.

Men's Club Sevens Pool Preview

The 2018 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship kicks off this weekend at 10am on August 11 at the Baker Athletic Complex, in New York City. For those who can’t make it out to the games, coverage will be provided by Flo Rugby

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Pool A:

Denver Barbarians:
The Denver Barbarians have been one of the most threatening teams throughout the history of sevens in America. The Barbarians have finished fourth twice, third 5 times and have come second on 8 separate occasions, however, first place has always eluded them.  They’ll like their chances to get the monkey off their shoulder this year, as they’ve already broken a championship drought early this year when they won the Division II National Championship in fifteens. Their hot form this year and reputation would be enough to make them favorites any year, but when looking at their roster which includes a host of collegiate sevens national champions. They have the talent and they have the championship pedigree, only thing left to see is if they can put it together for a full tournament.


Mystic River Rugby:
Two Division I Fifteens National Championships in the last three years have found their way into the hands of Mystic River, and they’ll be hoping to add more silverware to the cabinet this weekend. The men from Massachusetts, finished second in the Northeast, qualifying behind the formidable Old Blue, but if history is on their side they could be in for a big weekend. The Last time that Mystic won the fifteens championship they recorded their most successful 7s tournament to date, finishing third overall. With a roster filled from top to bottom with talent and still on a championship high, they could wrangle their way into another podium finish.

Atlanta Old White:
It’s been a long wait for Atlanta Old White. As a product of winning the earliest, and shortest, qualifying season of any of the regions, the men from the peach state have been able to ready themselves for the big stage for over two months. While some may argue that this could lead to rust developing, it can also help players recover from nagging injuries and let some of the nagging injuries dissipate. This will be their eighth trip to nationals, having previously recorded a best finish of 6th. It will be a tough road for them to improve upon it this year, but with a healthy well synchronized squad they’ll have a strong chance.

Belmont Shore Gold:
Finishing off Pool A is Belmont Shore Gold.  The Gold, who received their bid to nationals courtesy of their counterparts, Belmont Shore Rugby’s performance at the Western Open. However, they are more than worthy of being at this event by their own merrit, as they only missed out on the second qualifying seed by one point to the Santa Monica Dolphins. Belmont Shore Gold is not a team to be taken lightly and will certainly make life difficult for those sharing Pool A with them.


Pool B:

Washington Athletic:
Coming in from the Emerald City, Washington Athletic will be the sole representative of the Pacific North at the championships this weekend. They arrive via winning the Pacific North Championships, after an enthralling encounter with Life West. A core of their squad come from Central Washington University, one of the preeminent programs in college rugby. While they may not have all been at the University at the same time, they’ll be used to the same systems and have a familiarity and faith with one another. They are one of the most exciting teams in the tournament and you can guarantee that the score board will be ticking over when they are on the field.  

Another team that made the tournament thanks to their performances in their region’s championship tournament is Metropolis Rugby. Metropolis won the Midwest after an exhilarating qualifying season that saw them win every event through the entirety of their 7s schedule. This will be their 7th foray into the nationals, and they are primed for a deep run. They are led by two Major League Rugby players in Joeli Tikoisuva and Ratu Peceli Rinakama, who both play for NOLA Gold. These scintillating players will be integral to getting the platforms set on both sides of the ball. Another important note to make about Metropolos is that nine of the thirteen players on their roster are under the age of 25, which bodes well for the upcoming years.

Santa Monica Dolphins:
This weekend marks the fifth consecutive year that the Santa Monica Dolphins have made it into the final sixteen teams in the country. In the past they’ve had a mixed bag of success, mustering up a third-place finish but that was nearly thirty years ago. In their more recent history, while being a constant presence, they have not necessarily been a constant threat. In their last four appearances, they have finished 11th on two occasions and 10th the other two. This year that could be set to change. Littered with foreign as well as promising young domestic players, they have a roster with the potential to go deep. However, through the qualifiers they lacked regularity. If they are to make a genuine turn of it they will need to be switched on a consistent from the first whistle until the last.


New Orleans:
Another beneficiary of the Open System is New Orleans, who thanks to Dallas Rugby’s effort in the Eastern Open, were able to claim the second seed in the Red River. New Orleans played its first season in the Red River this year, after having previously competed in the South. The men from the Big Easy made an almost immediate impact when they won the second qualifier. However, while they are a team seemingly overflowing with potential they are still relatively unproven and have not shown their true colors. Inconsistency has plagued them through the year, and perhaps the biggest cause of that has been their depth. New Orleans used a rotation over the course of the season and have experimented frequently. Going into the weekend they have locked in their squad and it has a slew of NOLA Gold players from the MLR as well as back to back seven collegiate national championship MVP, Nick Feakes. For as unpredictable New Orleans have been, the one thing for certain about them is a lack talent won’t be what stops them from advancing.  


Pool C:

Old Blue of New York:
Playing at their home stadium this weekend is, the first seed out of the Northeast, Old Blue of New York. They have had a memorable season thus far going undefeated in their four qualifying tournaments; and now they have placed themselves in a position to make a serious lunge at claiming their 3rd sevens title. They have an impressive roster littered players from Rugby United New York, who will enjoy their first season in the MLR next year. One of their star players this weekend will be Gavan D’Amore-Morrison who has one of the most impressive rugby resumes in the tournament. Coming into the national championship undefeated automatically makes Old Blue one of the favorites, but when you add in the home crowd support it could be what pushes them over the edge.

Dallas Rugby:
Pool C is spoilt with impressive contenders, and the Dallas Reds may be a lot of the pundit’s dark horse pick to walk away with the Emil Signes Cup. The Reds had one of the most impressive qualification seasons ou
t of any team this weekend. In their first qualifier both teams they submitted into the tournament made it to the championship rounds. Followed by an immense showing at the Eastern Open, which guaranteed their spot in the championships. After the hot start to their qualifying season, they have since cooled off. A key to their success this weekend will be the play of standout D’Montae Noble. Noble has been a sensation at the Kutztown University since he stepped onto campus, and this summer returned to the state where he grew up to continue plying his craft. He is the youngest player on the squad by three years, but despite his youth he is still one of the leaders of the team. The Reds will be an exciting team to watch, and one worth paying close attention to as the tournament develops.

Cleveland Academy:
The biggest surprise entry into the National Championship, is the Cleveland Academy. Cleveland, who in their first year as a club claimed the final seed from the Midwest, after coming second in their regional championship. What makes their qualification surprising is the fact they had never found themselves in the championship round of any kind during the preceding Midwest tournaments. Heading into the Midwest Championships, every championship game of the Midwest qualifiers had been between Metropolis and the Chicago Lions, and many didn’t expect any deviation from the script. When you take a look at their roster, their qualification is a lot less surprising. They are filled with local talent, and five of their players played together at Notre Dame College. Playing together in one of the best college programs in the country will create an inherent chemistry and understanding between players. They are also helped by having a capped Tongan player, Sio Vaiangina amongst their ranks. It is hard to tell how far they will make it in the championship, but one thing is for certain- they are full of surprises.  

Kansas City Blues:
The third seed from the Frontier region, and perennial contender, the Kansas City Blues, round out Pool C. The Blues have had a see-sawing season. After a disappointing showing in the opening round of qualification they looked to have got themselves back on track in the second qualifier before extreme weather cut the tournament short. Entering the final qualifier, they were confident in their chances to put it all together but it wasn’t to be and they fell to fourth. Despite their qualification results, they are a team that has a strong pedigree in sevens, as they finished second only two years ago and third two years prior to that. If there is a team that knows what it takes to make it deep into the championship rounds it’s the Blues.   


Pool D:

Belmont Shore Rugby:
Three time National Champions, and Western Open winners, Belmont Shore will be looking to add their fourth title this Sunday. It has been a year of highs for the men from Southern California, after they fell agonizingly short of claiming the Division I Men’s Fifteens title this year, they now have a shot at retribution in the shorter format. They tore through qualifying and come into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. With a bevy of experienced players and a strong coaching staff, Belmont won’t be letting anything get out of their sights. Expect Belmont Shore to be one of the most clinical and precise teams in their execution this weekend.

Bulldog Rugby:
Year One in the Frontier Region proved to be a success for Bulldog Rugby, as they finished in second place behind the Barbarians. Bulldog burst onto the Frontier scene with a comprehensive performance in the Championship match of the first qualifier, dispatching of the Barbarians with ease. Their chances at winning the top seed in the Frontier took a hit in the second qualifier when extreme weather hindered their ability to make up for a slow start in the pool stages. They were back to contending form in the final qualifier, but they fell two points shy of beating the Barbarians once again. Bulldog has recruited heavily from college, including four members of the Lindenwood sevens team that won both the Collegiate National Championships and the CRCs.  With only two players over the age of 24 on their squad, they are easily the youngest team at Nationals and it will be interesting to see whether or not that proves to be an advantage or a hindrance during the tournament.  

Beltway Elite:
Beltway Elite return to the national championship for the second consecutive year, as they try to improve upon their fourteenth placed finish last year. Beltway had one of the most captivating qualification seasons, as they were locked in a fierce tussle with the Schuylkill River Exiles for all four tournaments. It wasn’t until the final whistle blew in their final qualifier that they knew for certain they were going through. The men from the Mid-Atlantic have proven to be resilient and a battle tested team, but coming into Nationals is another beast, entirely. They have a tough pool to get out of and will need to rely on their experiences from earlier this season if they are to make it into the top eight on Sunday.

New York Athletic:
One of the most storied clubs in fifteens, in New York Athletic (NYAC), rounds out Pool D as the third seed from the Northeast. NYAC has an extensive list of trophies in their cabinet but one that still eludes them to this day is the sevens national championship. This marks only their eleventh entry and their first since 2014. Throughout the season they were edging back and forth with Mystic River over who would claim the second seed in the Northeast, as Old Blue continued to be a class above everyone else. Eventually NYAC had to settle for third, but they are the most dangerous third seed from a region in the tournament. Led by their outstanding fly-half, Alex Hodgkinson NYAC has a potent attack and can move the ball sharply and quickly across the field causing headaches for those who have to face it. If they are to make it further than their previous best of 11th, look for Hodgkinson to be one of the contributing reasons to their success.

32-team Club 7s field solidified

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The 32-team field for the Aug. 12-13 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship is solidified after July 29’s Midwest and Pacific North Regional Championships qualified three more teams for Nationals.

Midwest 7s Championship

Youngbloodz Rugby’s legacy as one of the best women’s sevens programs in the country lives on – but under a new name. The newly formed Minneapolis Rugby 7s, which is essentially the Youngbloodz’s player pool competing under a new brand, won the Midwest 7s Championship over the weekend, and will make its first appearance at Nationals following a run of five consecutive appearances by the Youngbloodz.

Minneapolis’ run to the Midwest Final was made a bit easier with the Chicago Lions having already qualified. The Lions, winners of the region’s three qualifying events leading up to the championship tournament, were awarded the women’s Midwest No. 1 seed on the ‘Golden Ticket’ law.

Cincinnati Rugby, hosts of the Midwest Championship, gave its fans something to cheers for when its women’s team raced to the Final. However, the hometown squad’s impressing outing fell shy of a bid to Nationals when Minneapolis downed the Wolfhounds, 33-10.

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No Golden Ticket was awarded during the men’s Midwest qualifying series, making room for both the Chicago Lions and Metropolis to punch their tickets to Nationals. The Lions have long been renown as one of the best sevens sides in the Midwest, and will make their 15th appearance at Nationals in less than two weeks’ time. Metropolis, on the other hand, has struggled on the sevens circuit even as the club has continued to achieve plenty on the 15s pitch.

In the Final, Chicago outscored Metropolis, 26-5, to take the region’s No. 1 seed, while the team from Minneapolis will stay close to home to play in its first Club 7s National Championship since 2003 as Midwest’s No. 2 seed.

Pacific North 7s Championship

Atavus Academy 7s and the Life West Gladiatrix were able to fend through a lethal field of teams to reach the Final of the women’s Pacific North 7s Championship in Tacoma, Wash., qualifying the two teams for Nationals.

Atavus, which beat the Gladiatrix in the Final, makes its first National Championship appearance, but the team isn’t lacking big game experience. The program is based in Seattle, and includes five players from the Seattle Saracens’ 2016 Club 7s Championship squad that reached the Cup Quarterfinals.

Life West, which recently won a Division I National Championship in 15s less than two months ago, will have an opportunity to win 2017 titles in two codes after missing out on qualification for Nationals last summer.

The Berkeley All Blues, sevens National Champions in both 2011 and 2013, were unable to reach the Pacific North Final, ending their string of consecutive Club 7s National Championship appearances at six.

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Similar results came out of the men’s Pacific North competition, as Life West and a team that resembles the Seattle Saracens – Washington Athletic Club – reached the Final, as well. A big difference in the men’s regional championship was the result of the Final, which was won by the Gladiators. Like their female counterparts, the Gladiators did not qualify for Nationals in 2016, but shown they’ll be Cup Contenders in Minneapolis by edging out a Washington Athletic side chock-full of players who have represented USA Rugby as Eagles.

Washington Athletic isn’t exactly steeped in rugby tradition, but with half of the Saracens’ 2016 Club 7s Nationals roster on its squad, the team should fare just fine in a National Championship pool that includes the Dallas Reds, Metropolis and Old Blue.

The 2017 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship will take place Aug. 12-13 at the National Sports Center in Minneapolis. All matches from the two-day championship event will air on The Rugby Channel.