It might be old hat seeing Berkeley with a championship medal around their necks, but when it comes to 7s, no one team has established itself as the team-to-beat. The All Blues have now won two 7s titles in recent history, and this year’s 22-5 final victory over NOVA came through the efforts of a unique team.
Saturday was the first time that the Berkeley elite squad played with each other. Various obligations – from the Rugby World Cup Sevens, to France tests, to Collegiate All American camps – meant that someone was always missing during a tournament weekend. The busy summer also meant that Eagles Phoebe Boone, Katy Augustyn and Jossy Tseng – all at the Nations Cup – would not be available for nationals, and coach Laura Cabrera was preparing for that inevitability all summer.
But as the team assembled for their first outing against the Combined Services, it didn't take long to realize that another traditionally strong squad had shown up to Pittsburgh. The All Blues won 22-0 in their opener, and never let up.
“We had some great performances today from a lot of people, including some college kids who stepped up,” Berkeley captain Irene Gardner said of players like Jenn Sever and Erin Overcash. “A lot of new leaders on the field, and it’s great to see the development of the game and the development of this squad in particular. This weekend was the first time that all 12 of us played together, and when something like that happens we just see the progress and the final result, it means a lot to me. This one’s real special.”
Gardner attributed the ability to coalesce to “a combination of great personalities, a positive attitude and a bunch of hard workers.”
“I’m really proud of this team coming together and improving every single game together and just coming out with the confidence to know that as a team we could do everything,” Gardner said.
But the experience was especially poignant for Gardner, who was also on the 2011 7s championship team.
“Don’t make cry,” Berkeley coach Laura Cabrera considered the MVP’s influence. “Irene is our superstar. Irene has so much dedication, so much commitment, and not [just] at practice. She works her tail off. She’s our captain, and she’s the one I rely on. She’s a great player.”
Good thing Cabrera praised the MVP, because Gardner is modest when acknowledging her importance to the team. She did, however, relish in the fact that Berkeley doubled up on 7s and 15s titles this year.
“I’m not going to lie; it is very special,” Gardner said. “We did it one year a couple of years ago, and to be able to have that again goes to show how hard our athletes are working year round. And I’m so happy that every single one of us is able to be a part of that.”
As far as titles go, this one has been important. A former Eagle and Berkeley player herself, Cabrera has been trying to make 7s a permanent club fixture since moving to the area. This summer, the coach, with the help of assistant coach Brandon Sparks, had enough personnel for three sides. Competition for the elite squad was tough, and Cabrera worked her athletes hard. The club got their reward, so it’s safe to say that 7s has a home in Berkeley.