A nice Big 10 rivalry will play out tomorrow during the Women’s USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship, as Penn State and Ohio State look to keep their perfect records intact. Army took home the inaugural trophy in 2011, so both teams will be looking for their first CRC title.
Ohio State put up 85 points and allowed 31 during their run-up to the final (read more) while Penn State has outscored Temple, Drexel, Georgia Tech and Texas 135-10 over two days. The Nittany Lions were favored coming into this tournament, especially after defending their DI 15s title in early May. That said, the team has assumed a different mentality for 7s.
“Coming off of 15s nationals was hard,” PSU wing Kate Flanagan said. “We were coming off a high and no one really wanted to get collected and start training again. And then of course we had to break our 15s habits, so it was a hard turnaround. So we weren’t looking at this like a national championship, more as an opportunity to show people what we can do at a higher level, since this event is more publicized than our 15s nationals. We’re taking it seriously but it’s not like a ‘train ‘til you die’ kind of thing.”
Helping with that 15s-to-7s transition is former All Black 7s player Chad Tuoro, who is the current coach and player development manager at Bay of Plenty. Tuoro’s overhauled Penn State’s 7s play, and the team is taking to it.
“We have a new system, a new coach, so we’re all learning from the ground up,” Flanagan reflected on the team’s spectrum of experience. “Before, we tried to keep the ball moving until the defense was stressed, and then we’d attack. With the new system, we’re moving to the sideline and then go quick off a ruck, and having space wide is the goal every time. It seems to be working well so far.”
Penn State is composed of mostly backs, like USA 15s and 7s Eagle Meya Bizer, Elena Cantorna (attended the Top 60 camp in May), Olivia Lindsey and Bianca Dalal – all players, along with Flanagan, to watch.
“This system suits us,” Flanagan said, “and getting those quick rucks through the forwards we have has been securing us a lot of ball.”
The key for Penn State will be consistency. Flanagan noted that the team has fallen victim to less organized opponents, getting sucked into chaos and letting bad passes disturb rhythm. But Flanagan and team take it all in stride.
“We had some sloppy ball, but it’s hot, and you can’t expect everyone to be perfect all of the time,” Flanagan said. “We’re taking it one game at a time, but [when we play inside PPL Park] it’s going to be a shock. This is a big deal.”
Penn State and Ohio State go at it at 12:40 p.m. tomorrow.