USA Rugby's College 7s Championship gets underway Saturday, Nov. 23 in Greensboro, N.C. Alex Goff will be on the scene but here's a look into Pool A of the Women's tournament:
Pool A: Norwich, Princeton, Georgia Tech, Davenport
As the two-time – all-time – reigning champion, Norwich is the favorite in Pool A. The Cadets were not only fortunate to receive an at-large bid to the tournament, but also lucky to have the event fall between last weekend’s ACRA 15s quarterfinals and the final fours in early December. With that said, the team will be missing some key players in Ally Day and Baylee Annis, who will be traveling with the USA Women Collegiate All Americans on tour of France. It could have been worse: Last year's championship MVP, Joya Clark, was originally slated to accompany the All Americans as well, but the feisty winger has chosen to attend nationals instead.
“Missing these players will open the door for our other excellent players to step up: Hannah Bell, Riley Blankenship, Vanessa Champagne, etc.,” Norwich captain Rose Bernheim said. “Players who have been in the shadow of Joya and Ally, but we recognize as being just as good.”
Bernheim, too. The 15s fullback has played international 7s while representing the Combined Services Select during the Las Vegas Invitational.
Norwich has never played a game of 7s prior to their championship runs – a function of the team’s long fall 15s season – and the same will be true of 2013. The Cadets’ style of play suits a quick transition to 7s, and the champs should advance to the Cup round easily.
Princeton won the Ivy League 7s Championship earlier this month but was the only Tier A team competing (Brown and Dartmouth focused on ACRA playoffs, and no participation from Sue Parker's varsity Harvard squad). Penn, Columbia and Yale rounded out the four-team qualifier. The Tigers dropped their opening match to Penn before winning the rematch in the final, 21-10.
It’s been a disappointing fall for Princeton but 7s is where the team can make up some ground. They’ll be without Dot Mittow (WCAA tour) but have well knowns like Morgan Arthur and Cat Lambert to anchor the squad. Head coach Chris Ryan, a long-time compatriot of former Princeton coach and 7s guru Emil Signes, leads the Tigers into their third college 7s championship.
After a strong showing at the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship in June, Georgia Tech continued to flex its 7s muscle and proved as much with a South Independent title in early November. The South qualifier was also a four-team event, and the only team that made Tech work for the title was Clemson, which lost 24-19 in the title bout. Watch out for Chi Chi Chukwueke; she’s a Junior All American and a scoring machine.
Davenport is an interesting addition to the tournament. In its first-ever season, the Panthers went 7-0 in the DII Great Lakes conference. For some unforeseen reason, Davenport was barred from the ACRA post-season (instead, Grand Valley took the seed to the Round of 32 and was soundly beaten 45-0 by Notre Dame College; Davenport had beaten GVSU 43-0 in the regular season). Davenport then shifted to 7s, competed at the Big Ten qualifier and finished fifth. The Panthers are a long shot but they have a couple of gifted wings who will turn heads: freshman Danielle Ordway, who led the team in points (106) and tries (16) during the 15s season; and sophomore Gabby Florez, who dotted down 14 tries this season.
College 7s Championship - Pool A Schedule
8am Norwich v Davenport
820 Princeton v Georgia Tech
1140am Norwich v Georgia Tech
12pm Princeton v Davenport
220 Georgia Tech v Davenport
320 Norwich v Princeton