The women’s club 7s scene is now fit for ranking, as the majority of regions are hosting qualifiers and teams are realizing the importance of a competitive summer. With that said, there are still areas that struggle with participation, so RUGBYMag.com is limiting the list to those teams that have declared their intentions for nationals.
The Mid-Atlantic has always been ahead of the curve, and the region heads into its fourth weekend of series-eligible tournaments with the Harrisburg 7s. A fantastic duel has resurfaced between NOVA and the D.C. Furies. The two powerhouses have exchanged victories, but the previous one went to the Virginia side – a 12-7 title win at Ruggerama 7s. Had we published rankings a week ago, then D.C. would have slotted above NOVA, as the Furies took the Pick 7s final 27-7 over their rivals. But as it stands, NOVA has the 2-1 lead in the head-to-head.
MARFU also has the best depth of any region and there’s little surprise that NOVA 2, which competed at nationals last year, is making it to the final four of several tournaments. We’ll keep an eye on Philadelphia, James River and young teams like Scion, but there’s still a bit of ground between the top two tiers of competition.
In the Northeast, the real story is the Boston area. The Belles have been the team to beat in the NRU for years now, but an interesting development will push them through the qualifying series. Beantown has formed a competitive 7s side this summer, forcing many Belles alumni to choose an allegiance. Some have stayed with the Belles – like Alyssa Green, Ali Pappas and Ashley Clancy – while others have followed Kelly Seary back to Beantown. The two teams met during the final of the first NRU qualifier – Eric White Memorial 7s – and Beantown overcame a halftime deficit to win 12-5.
But the Northeast in general has seen a dip in participation. Sides like the Boston-based Falcons, Pony Express, New York and Village Lions, all of whom competed at the NRU championship last year, are not looking toward nationals this year. According to NRU 7s Director Sean Horan, only three teams (Belles, Beantown and Morris) are accruing points through the four-event series. The second qualifier occurs this weekend at the Monmouth 7s.
The Midwest is hosting four qualifiers as well, and the Youngbloodz are leading the pack after winning the Firehouse 7s last weekend. The Minnesota side did it without Christy Ringgenberg and Katie Johnson – last year’s stalwarts who are now in Moscow for the Rugby World Cup Sevens – and showed some vulnerability early in the tournament, when they lost handily to Detroit. The Youngbloodz do, however, have Kaelene Lundstrum, who was a USA 7s resident in 2012, and her experience came in handy during the final, when the Minnesota team defeated Detroit 19-12 for the title.
Last year, it was Chicago North Shore that traded victories with the Youngbloodz, but the Illinois team is fielding a social side this year. Those interested in a competitive 7s season have teamed up with the new Chicago Lions women’s team. The roster isn’t too deep right now, but well knowns like Kate Daley, Christiane Pheil and Sara Nester bring some nice pop to the lineup. We'll keep an eye on them over the next couple of weeks.
The West Coast is in full swing as well. There is only one qualifier apiece for Southern California and Pacific Coast, but the teams have booked their schedules in preparation. The game of the weekend occurred between the two regions' top clubs – Berkeley All Blues from the north and San Diego Surfers from the south. After emerging from a field that saw an impressive number of new 7s teams – Tempe (second year of 7s), Valley (CSU Northridge grads), Red Mountain and Pasadena – at the Dirty 7s in Palm Springs, the two sides ended regulation at 22-all in the final. Flashback to the 2012 national semifinals, when the teams were in the same exact scenario: sudden death overtime. Only this time, it was the All Blues who scored quickly and earned the first tournament win of their season.
We expect both San Diego and Berkeley to move up in the rankings, but not just for their reputation or history of success. Both sides are missing important players - Emilie Bydwell and Ryan Carlyle from San Diego; Irene Gardner to the RWC 7s and additional Eagles to the Nations Cup in August - but have fantastic numbers. Younger players are stepping up, and new stars are emerging. NOVA and D.C. have great numbers, too, and the MARFU teams have already vet their up-and-comers in three or more tournaments.
Southern California gets two seeds to nationals. Tempe looked good – going 4-0 in pool play and led by Kathryn Pavao – before losing 32-0 to San Diego 2 in the plate championship. But the Devils’ Angel Bishop assured that the Arizona side needs another year of development and won't be looking for a SoCal seed to nationals. Belmont Shore attended last year’s nationals and lost to Tempe 12-7 at the Dirty 7s, so they might be the next best option.
Farther north up the coastline, the Seattle Breakers and Emerald City Mudhens attended Vancouver 7s last weekend. Seattle beat Emerald City before losing in the final (corrected: teams played each once, not twice, as previously reported). The Breakers advanced to last year’s club 7s final, but they’re a slightly different team this year. They have important returners like Carrie White and Parisa Asgharzadeh, and we’re excited to see Carly MacKinnon, Washington State University star, play with the senior side. Ashley Kmiecik – last seen wearing a USA jersey and pumping her fist after scoring against France earlier this month – is the epicenter of the Mudhens’ attack.
That leaves the South and the West, both of which are on shaky ground. Southern Exposure won the Back 9 7s last weekend, but there are some commitment concerns. Well known players like Jessica Peterson, Pat Neder and Maddy Wilbanks make for a good backbone, but the team was still deciding on its summer intentions this week. Atlanta is still playing socially, which is a shame, because the Harlequins would make a great addition to the 7s circuit. Hotlanta 7s in mid-July is the official qualifier for the South, so we’ll see who wants the seed from the South.
As for the West, not much to report yet. Last check-in indicated that the West was sending two teams to nationals, but no word on how those teams will be chosen. Obviously, if Glendale were participating, they would perform spectacularly at nationals.
Women Club 7s Top 12 – June 27, 2013
1. NOVA. Won Lehigh Valley and Ruggerama 7s. Defeated D.C. 12-7 in last title bout.
2. D.C. Furies. Won Pick 7s 27-7 over NOVA two weekends ago.
3. Berkeley. Won Dirty 7s over San Diego in overtime.
4. San Diego. Finished second at Dirty 7s, losing to Berkeley in overtime.
5. Seattle. Finished second at the Vancouver 7s; defeated Emerald City twice.
6. Beantown. Won NRU qualifier Eric White 7s over Boston Belles 12-5.
7. Boston Belles. Finished second at Lehigh Valley to NOVA, and Eric White 7s to Beantown.
8. Youngbloodz. Won Firehouse 7s; split games with Detroit.
9. Emerald City. Lost to Seattle during Vancouver 7s. (corrected: teams played each once, not twice, as previously reported)
10. Detroit. Shut out Youngbloodz in pool play then lost in final of Firehouse 7s.
11. NOVA 2. Routinely advancing to MARFU-eligible semifinals.
12. Southern Exposure. Won Back 9 7s last weekend; sustained commitment could be an issue.