2011 marked the first year that the Las Vegas Invitational hosted a Women’s Elite 7s division, and day one proved that it was a successful addition. The field boasts a healthy mix of overseas teams like Chile, Adler 7s from Germany, and Canadian Dog River Howlers and international select side Beavers – all of whom played well today.
But the most impressive team of the day was the Boston Belles. The New England-based team advanced to the Club 7s Championship final against Berkeley last year, and incidentally, three All Blues from that championship squad played with the Belles today. Coach Brandon Spark was the common link between the two squads, having help found the Belles a couple of years ago and acting as assistant coach to Berkeley last summer. It was an interesting day for the guest coach considering his loyalties weren’t divided, like they might have been during the club title match in August.
But Sparks didn’t face the typical growing pains that a select side typically experiences and team chemistry wasn't an issue. The Belles defeated two physical sides in Dog River Howlers and Kalihi Raiders from Hawaii by a combined 50-10, and finished the day with a 26-7 win over DII club champs Raleigh Venom.
“They make me look good,” Sparks joked. “I got off the plane at 8 a.m., show up at the fields and these kids are just running all over the place. Their fitness level really impressed me; they’ve been putting in the work in the off season. And they’re all so smart; they’re all students of the game and adjust well.”
Although the Belles are tenacious across the board, they had their hands full with Kalihi.
“Kalihi was big and physical, and we anticipated them being bullies, and that’s what they tried to do,” Sparks said. “We played a soft defense and covered their kicks. But this physicality is all something they’ve seen before.”
Jess Peterson stood out on the day, and Sparks is certain she’ll get a look from the USA setup. Lindsay Migliore, who was the one player with whom Sparks wasn’t familiar, also played well, logging a pretty individual try stiff-arming her way past much larger Kalihi defenders.
This is the first off-season 7s tour in which the Belles have played, and it came to fruition due in part to a player pool that has doubled in size. Along with some organizational savvy from founder Kelly Seary, the team has been able to work toward its goal of playing good, competitive 7s while still keeping that element of fun.
The Beavers are also 3-0 but they had a slightly easier pool to contend with. They defeated a feisty Chilean side 12-7 that was well drilled but lacked physical stature and put-it-away speed outside. The Beavers are an interesting team, boasting six players from Canada, four from Europe and five from the USA, including San Diego Surfer Val Griffeth. They also defeated EPA Razorbacks 41-0 and Provo 12-0. Now with a day’s worth of competition under their belts, the Beavers should continue to improve through the playoffs tomorrow.
The Adler 7s and Guelph also put in solid performances and ended the day with two wins apiece, so they could easily challenge for a final berth tomorrow.
But we expect to see the Belles and the Beavers last the longest tomorrow, with the edge going to the Belles. Regardless, this inaugural competition will pack as much punch as it did through pool play.
Pool Play Women's Elite 7s
Guelph 21-19 Adler
Might Rucks 30-0 Penn State
Chile 14-0 Provo
Beavers 41-0 EPA Razorbacks
Dog River 5-25 Boston Belles
Kalihi Raiders 7-7 Raleigh Venom
Adler 26-0 Penn State
Mighty Rucks 14-14 Guelph
Chile 7-12 Beavers
EPA Razorbacks 5-22 Provo
Dog River 15-5 Raleigh Venom
Kalihi Raiders 5-25 Boston Belles
Adler 7s 24-5 The Mighty Rucks
Guelph 28-0 Penn State
Chile 31-0 EPA Razorbacks
Provo 0-12 Beavers
Dog River 17-0 Kalihi Raiders
Boston Belles 26-7 Raleigh Venom