Tomorrow marks the beginning of the first official Women’s Club 7s Championship, taking place in San Francisco alongside the men’s competition. Ten teams from all but the Midwest are participating, three of which hail from the Mid-Atlantic.
|MARFU sends three teams to the Club 7s nationals.|
While it’s mildly disappointing to not have all of the unions represented, the distribution of seeds is relative to the popularity of 7s in certain regions. Additionally, it has take an official national championship to encourage established, successful 15s clubs to invest in a 7s program.
“Berkeley has not traditionally had a competitive 7s side, but we have been trying to introduce the wonders of 7s to Berkeley for many years now,” All Blues 7s coach Laura Cabrera said. “We expect to be very competitive at the Championships. All the teams attending are fierce competitors, and we are looking forward to some tough matches.”
It will be interesting to see how the All Blues and their star-studded roster, which includes Nathalie Marchino and Kelly Griffin, will compare with teams that play a regular 7s season. Berkeley will play two-time defending national invitational champion NOVA, Northeast champion Boston Belles, Philadelphia and Belmont Shore during pool play.
NOVA is the standing favorite in pool A, and calls three Eagle 7s players – captain Lauren Hoeck, Beth Black and CJ Hildreth – among its own. But the defending champ showed that it’s not invincible, dropping the Cape Fear 7s title to Atlanta in early July.
“We definitely weren't at 100% at Cape Fear and I think the loss was actually good for the team,” NOVA coach Dana Creager said. “It helped us to pick apart our game and figure out areas for improvement. It gave the girls motivation during their workouts and encouraged them to give 100% at every practice. I'm excited for a re-match!”
NOVA’s second side finished third at MARFU Championships, but wasn’t allowed to participate at nationals (Philadelphia was awarded the third seed). They’ve been scrimmaging the first side the previous two weeks, and that depth of talent has been very beneficial in getting the team ready for nationals.
The Boston Belles have a lot of depth as well and could have easily supplied a second side for nationals. The 7s-only club won the NRU Championship convincingly, and is led by captain Emily Malkin, Emilie Bydwell and Kelly Seary. Most of the Belles are from Beantown, but Boston and New England colleges contribute players as well. New York finished second in the NRU but was unable to travel. This summer has been particularly difficult for elite East Coast players, who have had to budget their time and money between several West Coast assemblies and national championships, especially ahead of the Women’s Premier League season.
Division II’s Belmont Shore and MARFU #3 seed Philadelphia round out pool A, and will have their hands full against the aforementioned teams. Their face-off will be the teams’ best chance for a win.
In Pool B, San Diego gets the nod as favorite, having narrowly lost to NOVA last year in the final. Captain Liz Strohecker leads a team that blends a number of experienced players, like Mandy Wilson, top scorer Casey Fields, and Val Griffeth, who attended the women’s 7s camp in July.
The Surfers’ biggest competition will likely come from Atlanta. Their game will be doubly exciting, considering the two teams haven’t seen each other since the DI championship, in which San Diego won. The Harlequins have the makings of a phenomenal 7s team, with familiar names in Heather Hale, Patty Jervey, Kari Morrison and Sue Uchneat populating the roster. The team has been tested a couple of times against NOVA and South All Stars, but still struggles to find regular competition.
“We hope to learn a lot from the experience and to continue to grow our very young 7s program,” Atlanta captain Ros Chou said. “We are extremely happy with our performance so far this first year, and hope that we can have continued success. We didn't really know what to expect this inaugural year and with the accomplishments we've had thus far, we're excited for what is to come in the future.”
Atlanta advanced to this weekend’s event uncontested, as did Glendale. There’s little competition for the women’s West teams, but fortunately the Raptors’ high practice numbers have enabled inter-squad scrimmages. The team will rely on Hannah Stolba, Sara Edwards and Bethany Zick to lead a squad that coach Laura Hertel said is “a good mix of physical and finesse. We have great athletes but many of them are new to the game of 7s.”
The DC Furies have a long tradition of 7s, and for those new to the abbreviated version, former USA 7s Women’s coach Sue Parker helped them catch up to speed. Now, with injured players returning to form, the Furies are looking to make a statement this weekend.
“We had a good performance at MARFU [championships], but I think we have yet to fully reach our potential for a whole tournament,” DC captain Jess Shipley said. “We are poised to peak this weekend, and I'm really excited to see us put all the pieces together. Two-day tournaments are always hard to maintain a high level of focus and intensity, so the depth and experience on our roster is going to be an advantage for us as the matches go on.
“It's been our goal this summer to win a National Championship, and that's our intent going into this weekend,” Shipley added. “I expect us to play our very best 7s all tournament long, and if we do that, I believe we will be successful.”
Action kicks off at 8 a.m. PDT tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for results.