The Northeast is the frontrunner in pool B of the Women’s National All Star 7s Championship, due to begin tomorrow morning in Chula Vista, Calif. The NRU has the most experienced squad by far and should emerge as the top seed after pool play.
The Nessies have their share of 7s and 15s Eagles in Emilie Bydwell, Katie Dowty, Phaidra Knight and Kitt Wagner, and the Boston Belles have added some interesting talent. Ashley Clancy, one of the fastest players on the circuit this summer, makes her debut for NRU. She’s joined by Belles captain Emily Malkin and teammate Danielle Miano.
Only the Belles players made the trip to San Francisco in early August for the Club 7s Championship, where the team finished second to the All Blues, so the majority of the squad didn’t have to budget to West Coast trips during three weeks time. That wasn’t the case for the South, however.
Typically the Panthers are achored by a number of Atlanta Harlequins, easily the most successful and experienced team in the region. The Harlequins played at Club 7s nationals, and with the travel-heavy 15s season looming, there isn’t a single Atlanta player on this year’s team.
That said, the South will receive plenty of direction from Pat Neder and Lindsay Stephenson. The rest of the squad is filled with college players from NC State, Florida State, Auburn, East Carolina, Clemson and Elon. Coach Mike May pointed to ECU flyhalf Jessica Peterson as a player to watch.
“Jess is definitely an up-and-comer,” May said. “Her skill and ability to read the game will turn some heads.”
The South finished second to MARFU in last year’s competition, but the Panthers are a different team this year.
As the for the West, the worst that could happen is nothing, and the Mustangs keep their 8th seed. Tracy Gola has been recently installed as West 7s coach and is running her first dual training session with the team this evening.
“We are pretty small in size and have a mixture of experience players,” Gola said. “I have a bunch of athletic girls who aren't afraid to work hard and will give 110% this weekend. Our size will mainly come from Dee McGillivray and Sarah Wilson. Our speed will come from players such as Kathryn Pavao, Sara Edwards, Hannah Stolba and Rachel Muir. Each player has their own individual strengths and I'm excited to see the end product when we put them all together this weekend.”
Several players attended club 7s with Glendale in early August, and were exposed to some of the higher level play out there. Their leadership will be greatly needed as the Mustangs try to improve upon their ranking.
Will that confidence-boosting win come against the USA 7s Developmental squad? Likely not. Even though Ric Suggitt’s team in comprised almost entirely of college players, many have substantial 7s experience. Deven Owsiany, Katie Lorenz, Tyra McGrady, Frances Wherwein, Ryan Carlyle and Amelia Villines all have USA 7s caps.
“We have some new faces in the shape of sisters Amy and Ella Nabar,” Suggitt said. “They are both recent attendees of the open camp in Santa Barbara. This young team has some speed with Kaelene Lunnstrum coming straight in from 15s Nation Cup and complimented with Bex Seibach, a graduate of the USA U20 squad.“
Kimber Rozier, who was instrumental during the Collegiate All Americans’ win over Canada in Saranac, will be at the helm at flyhalf.
As Suggitt mans his developmental side, he’ll be scanning the field for any hibernating talent. It’s the players’ last shot of the summer to impress the national coach, as 15s goes into full force after this weekend.
Play kicks off at 10:20 a.m. PDT.