(PHOTO: Youngsters like scrumhalf Michelle Wong and tighthead prop Kadie Sanford have bolstered Detroit.)
All three women’s DI club regions will be in full swing this weekend. Up first, CR1, which inaugurated its season last weekend with a couple of games.
Seattle will look to improve to 3-0 this weekend, building off a nicely contested 34-22 win over the Emerald City Mudhens last Saturday. The Breakers head to northern California for a double-header against Nor Cal Triple Threat and San Francisco Fog.
Seattle is coming off a fantastic summer 7s season that saw the team advance to the club 7s national championship. Unfortunately, the finalists lost one of their best playmakers in the process – Megan Sanders – and have had to make do without their star flyhalf. Sanders and USA scrumhalf Carrie White proved a formidable force working together. White will still be Seattle’s guiding light and be supported by highlights like forward Parisa Asgharzadeh and speedy wing Jess Torres.
Seattle’s biggest test will come on Saturday against Nor Cal Triple Threat, which defeated San Francisco Fog (Seattle’s Sunday opponent) 42-19 last weekend. The Californian side boasts some impressive names like former Eagles Lisa Butts and Naima Reddick, but lacks depth. Still, Nor Cal TT has proven that it can score points, and the Breakers’ defense will have to be on point to seal a win.
Sunday also marks ORSU’s league opener. The once-Women’s Premier League team has struggled since relegation, and its CIPP list currently reflects 15 players. Among that short list are players like Eagle Sharon Blaney, Te Awhina Ho Chee, Liz Kilgore and Beckett Royce, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the squad complements this core of athletes.
With few to none subs available, ORSU can only hope their fitness outlasts a strong Mudhens squad. Emerald City lost to Seattle by only 12 points last weekend. They’ve experienced their share of setbacks, like coach Phil Killham stepping down a couple of weeks ago, but veterans like power wing Ashley Kmiecik and Kammi Lopez have stepped in to lead the team.
In CR2, the most exciting game should evolve between Chicago North Shore and Detroit. The latter already has a league win under their belts, having defeated Chicago 27-7 two weekends ago. A nice kick-and-chase game, excellent speed out wide, and ability to take Chicago’s big pack on the chin helped build the win. Newer players like University of Michigan’s Michelle Wong and Kadie Sanford have also proved to be integral additions.
North Shore, the reigning DI champion, is in better shape than Chicago, though. It’ll be difficult to get around speedsters like Alison Freidheim, Cristina Mastrangelo and Jenny Lui. And their pack is looking as good as ever, as notables like Kate Daley, Lani Larson and newcomer Christiane Pheil bolster the forward effort. North Shore is favored in the match, but it should be a good one.
The Minnesota Valkyries have returned to division one after losing their WPL challenge match against Glendale. One would presume the Valkyries are beginning their season with an easier game against Black Ice, which lost 41-27 to the Austin Valkyries last weekend, but with only 17 players currently CIPPed, the away game could mean several inexperienced players take the pitch. The Valkyries will be relying heavily on Christy Ringgenberg and Kristin Zdanczewicz in rebuilding.
In CR3, Atlanta and NOVA are still the teams to beat, however, Boston proved they are a much more balanced squad this year. Familiar faces from the dense Boston 7s scene popped up during the team’s 33-19 win over Providence last weekend – former USA U20 flyhalf Miranda Waikimoto and Boston Belles Stacy Powell, Emily Malkin and the ever-dangerous Danielle Miano.
Miano has fantastic speed, but she won’t find the room to run as readily against NOVA’s backline and with Erica Cavanaugh on the wing to boot. NOVA coach Brian Walker reiterated that while the most recognizable names will be found in the backs – Lauren Hoeck, CJ Hildreth, Mo McQueen – that the forwards have stepped up their game the last couple of years. Rachel Primo and Megan Hanson at hooker and flanker are two of the more exciting players motoring around the pitch today.
However, last weekend’s 41-27 win over Philadelphia also highlighted some defensive shortfalls; in fact, NOVA allowed Philly to pull within two points at half, after leading 19-0 early on. Still, we’re picking NOVA for the win but expect a heated contest en route to the victory.
Atlanta’s on the road to Albany for their opener. The Harlequins didn’t field a team at the national club 7s championship, and therefore, could spend a little more time prepping for their 15s sides. All the big names are still there, as well as some exciting new players like Jess Wooden and Tristan Likes. The Knickerbocker’s CIPP roster looked a little light, but all the playmakers – Kristin Bonomo, Claudia Braymer, Jo Kos – are ready for play and can make all the difference when working together.
Stay tuned for results and match reports.
Tempe @ Belmont Shore
Seattle @ Nor Cal Triple Threat
ORSU @ Emerald City (Sunday)
Seattle @ San Francisco Fog (Sunday)
Detroit @ Chicago North Shore
Austin Valkyries @ St. Louis
Minnesota Valkyries @ Denver Black Ice
Atlanta @ Albany
NOVA @ Boston
Village Lions @ Providence