The second step in the 2013 Midwest Qualifier 7s Series is about to kick off in Lemont, Ill. on Saturday as the Chicago Blaze play host to the Midwest’s most competitive sevens squads in the Firehouse 7s tournament.
The pools are all set for the weekend’s day of qualifier rugby with a number of the big names in the area – 1823, Chicago Lions and Cincinnati Wolfhounds – concentrated in one pool. The Lions edged out the Youngbloodz twice in the Midwest Series opener, the Minnesota 7s, so that should help them carry some confidence into the weekend’s tournament. Not to be outdone, 1823 put up big points in Minnesota, establishing their dominance before falling in the finals. Their second-place finish might even add more fuel to their fire than their other success last week.
The Milwaukee Barbarians and Madtown (aka Wisconsin) will likely have high expectations for the weekend in hopes of at least matching their previous top-four finish. They will have to get past the Youngbloodz and Griffins, respectively in their efforts to do that. The Youngbloodz and the Chicago Griffins stand out as the big names in their respective pools as well. Both the Youngbloodz and Griffins experienced mixed results in Minnesota, putting up big wins as well as narrow losses.
Rugby fans keeping their eyes on Chicago shouldn’t overlook some of the other smaller teams in the tournament either. Firehouse could play host to some surprising performances and even an upset or two.
One smaller squad to look out for is Chicago Rhino 7s, a team pulling talent from two Chicago teams and collegiate rugby athletes to vie for Midwest points. Though they were held scoreless in Minnesota, there is no counting out flashes of brilliance that can come from pulling talent from so many sources. The Rhinos have two things going for them that a lot of the other teams don’t: they’re new and hungry and they are, surely, looking to show their worth and shake off their rough performance in their Minnesota debut.
Another team looking to make a statement in Chicago is the CARPS, who made a return to the 7s scene last year. The CARPS finished in the top five of the Midwest with a strong team comprised of talent from the Cleveland and Akron area. This year’s team is a far cry from the 2012, though. With a number of key players suiting up for other teams and being one tournament behind, the CARPS certainly have the odds stacked against them. There is still a lot of talent to go around, from athleticism to experience.
The fact of the matter is that neither the Rhinos nor the CARPS should be overlooked. The team that does that will likely find themselves on the wrong end of an upset. Meanwhile Madtown is the one team others keep mentioning as a dark horse. Drawing talent from University of Wisconsin and the DII 15s champion Wisconsin club, they have skill, pace and power.
The weather for Saturday is set to be nearly 90 degrees with a possibility of isolated thunderstorms, so the heat will definitely be an added factor to see who comes out on top at the end of the day.