Cape Fear 7s is one of two tournaments this weekend awarding points toward the women’s MARFU club championship. Cheesesteak 7s in Philadelphia is also occurring this Saturday, and between the two events, the top eight MARFU 7s teams will be known before the weekend’s end.
NOVA currently leads the standings with 12 points and is the favorite for returning to Virginia with the tournament title. Raleigh is the only team in the Premier division vying for a berth to MARFUs, and they’ll be joined by the South’s Atlanta, Southern Exposure and Panthers.
For NOVA, Cape Fear 7s marks the first tournament in which their two independently CIPPed sides aren’t competing in the Premier Division together. The in-session USA Women’s National Team players camp has caused some roster gaps, so NOVA is taking 10 players to the qualifier and relegating NOVA 2 to the Open Division.
But NOVA still has a wealth of quality depth. Sevens Eagles Beth Black and Lauren Hoeck captain NOVA 1, and the perennial MARFU champions are still riding high after last weekend’s Wilmington 7s title over the D.C. Furies, which are currently in 2nd place.
“We are hoping to see some great competition, so that we can continue to work on eliminating penalties and improve our decision-making in preparation for MARFU playoffs and nationals,” NOVA coach Dana Creager said.
One would expect Atlanta to be NOVA’s biggest competition, but the Harlequins aren’t in the same shape as they were at this point last year.
“This year, unfortunately, we don't have the same player availability as last season,” Atlanta’s Ros Chou said. “We have a number of players who are financially strained because of 15s NASCs, Touch Nationals and All Star 7s [championships], and our coach, Jason Payne, has had scheduling conflicts, so we have been struggling to get into our groove in trainings. We do not anticipate being able to send our strongest side to San Francisco.”
That’s why Atlanta combined forces with Southern Exposure, a team led by former Eagle and current Harlequin Pat Neder. With the two squads combined, Southern Exposure looks to be the best option to represent the South at club 7s nationals.
Which leaves some question marks for the final two sides – South All Stars and Raleigh. With some of the South’s best players tied up with Atlanta/Southern Exposure, the Panthers might skew toward younger, college-age players. Raleigh, which is composed of several former players from The Hustlers, is looking for a MARFU seed to nationals; however, as of last weekend, Raleigh hadn’t earned a single qualifying point to MARFUs.
This weekend is the last chance for MARFU teams to qualify for the territorial championship, and those not competing at Cape Fear must be at Cheesesteak 7s in Philadelphia in order to garner points. The South is also building toward its championship on July 21 in Ormond Beach, Fla., however, it doesn’t appear to have the qualifying structure that many territories are continuing and/or adopting this year.