When one thinks of women’s 7s rugby, NOVA is the first team that comes to mind. Yes, Berkeley is the current champ, and Boston Belles have made waves as a 7s-only club, but NOVA represents a legacy of stellar 7s. NOVA has dominated the MARFU 7s scene for years, and just when the territory felt too small, NOVA added another team - NOVA 2 - to the competition. And now both are heading to nationals, along with the D.C. Furies.
NOVA’s reputation as a serious 7s club has drawn huge numbers to the Virginia team every summer. Since a team isn’t allowed to enter two sides into a national championship, the club CIPPed its second side as a separate team. That meant a lot of organization early in the season.
“Since USA Rugby introduced a rule that one club can't have two sides qualify for nationals, we had to register NOVA 2 as a 7s-only club very early in the summer,” NOVA coach Dana Creager explained. “Since players couldn't be moved once they played in a qualifier, we had to set the teams before we played in our first tournament. Back on May 25, I held a scrimmage for anyone interested in playing competitive 7s with NOVA, and from there I selected the NOVA 1 side and the majority of players for the NOVA 2 side. A few more girls trickled in over the next few weeks and we got them CIPPed and playing with NOVA 2.”
NOVA 1 is filled with many familiar faces: Three Eagles in Lauren Hoeck (captain), Beth Black (captain) and Erica Cavanaugh, Meganne Atkins, Megan Hanson, Monique McQueen, Rachel Primo and Katie Miller. Newer to the 7s side is Emily Blease, UVA’s MC Anderson and Kelley Frank, and Longwood’s Josie Ziluca.
NOVA 2 has a mixture of players. Amy Kingsbury (captain) and Caitlin MacAlpine are long-time NOVA players, while Margot DeBot, Betsy McCracken, Alexandria Schaefer and Ning Tay are all competing in their second summer with NOVA. Sam Lauring, Ashley Afranie-Sakyi, Kathryn Hemlock and Emily Fullbrook are all new additions.
The standings heading into the MARFU championship held, with NOVA 1 taking first, D.C. Furies finishing second and NOVA 2 taking the third slot. It wasn’t a traditional end to the tournament, as torrential rains moved the competition to an indoor turf field, where both the men’s and women’s series were to play out. The women forewent the long wait and decided on the final three, leaving Philadelphia without the chance to vye for a spot to nationals.
“It's been very challenging to coach two sides all summer, especially at tournaments when they are playing at the same time or in back-to-back games,” Creager said. “Kristen Campbell, a long-time NOVA 15s and 7s scrumhalf, was able to come out and help at most practices and tournaments. I am also very lucky to have very experienced captains for both teams who can lead warm-ups and drills if I'm working with the other side.”
Although the two sides are technically different squads, 2012 marks the first year in which one club is sending two teams. It’s a testament to the legacy that NOVA has built in the 7s sphere, and hopefully they’ll be rewarded in San Francisco.
PHOTOS: (top) NOVA 1 wins the MARFU Championship while (bottom) NOVA 2 finishes third. Both head to nationals.