Half of the fun of the Women’s Open 7s division at the Las Vegas Invitational is deciphering all of the team names, learning their back stories, and finding notable players in different uniforms. For instance, Team Lola is essentially D.C. Furies’ Jeanna Beard’s bachelorette party; Rock is a group of 17- to 21-year-olds from Newfoundland; and Dark & Stormy is representing – you guessed it – Bermuda. Oh look, there’s Joanna Kitlinski playing for the Michigan Mutts; the Jackson sisters are back playing with BYU; and RUGBYMag 2013 College 7s Player of the Year, Rose Bernheim, is anchoring the U.S. Combined Services.
There was little background knowledge on The Royals as well, until the team lined up for its opening kickoff. The most stacked team in the competition (except Japan Select 2), the motley side paired five Berkeley players (including RUGBYMag 2013 Women’s Club 7s Player of the Year Irene Gardner and sister Elaine) with Evan Hoese and Emily Malkin out of Boston, Jess Wooden from Atlanta, and a couple of players from Los Angeles.
“Originally I wanted an All Blues team, but it was tough to gather interest in the off-season,” Gardner said of her Club 7s Championship home team. “I wanted to get more 7s play in because we don’t get that much at the club level.”
The Royals didn’t encounter too much resistance today, as the team shut out its three pool opponents: Minnesota Tundra 68-0, Kalihi Raiders 46-0 and the Raptors 39-0. A pretty big accomplishment considering Gardner had not met two of her teammates before today, and others were competing in their first 7s tournament.
The expectation is that The Royals will face Japan in the final. The developmental side displayed all of the traits of its senior team – devastatingly tricky feet, fearless in contact, and very well drilled.
“Their fundamentals are strong, and you can tell that they play together, so they’ll have that up on us,” Gardner said of Japan. “But we’re looking forward to it. It’s tough to know what your competition is going to be like in the Open division, so we’re excited to play some good 7s tomorrow.”
The Royals and Japan were playing in a different tier today, although Team LOLA (Jess Shipley, Cynthia Wright, Meredith McAlister), Youngbloodz (Michelle Wong, Debbie Stenoien) and BYU (Jordan Gray, Jackson sisters) also had good days. Gardner assured that The Royals were gunning for the title and wouldn’t let LVI evening festivities affect tomorrow’s 9 a.m. Cup Quarterfinal. Safe to say Japan’s thinking the same thing.
Stay tuned …