The National Women's Club 7s Championships is a complicated affair. What with teams not accepting invitations, and new teams coming in, and those teams bowing out again, and the pools all changing, it's a tough one to handicap.
But, there are some solid programs involved. Here's what we think:
Pool A: Seattle Breakers, Chicago North Shore, NOVA 2, Nobody
This is a three-team pool being treated as a four-team pool, so all three will get a 28-0 victory on their report cards on Saturday.
NOVA 2 is an effective squad, but young, and will be sorely tested by both Seattle and North Shore. In the end, this pool comes down to the Seattle v. Chicago game.
Given the form Seattle has shown of late, it's going to be hard to vote against them:
Our Picks: 1st Seattle, 2nd Chicago North Shore
Pool B: Boston Belles, Youngbloodz, Emerald City Mudhens, Philadelphia
It's a little harsh on Philadelphia, one of those teams that has come in at short notice to fill in. They bring only nine players on their roster, and will struggle as the tournament goes on. But they should be commended for showing up at all.
The Boston Belles are an excellent outfit, led by Amy Daniels, they are really a young squad playing superbly well together.
But so it Youngbloodz. If anything, Youngbloodz has a little bit more experience, with Christy Ringgenberg being the central player for them.
The Mudheans? They would love to surprise people. We actually see this pool as possibly ending with the teams from Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle all at 2-1. It's that close.
Our Picks: 1st Youngbloodz, 2nd Boston
Pool C: NOVA 1, Berkeley All Blues, Belmont Shore, Morris
Congratulations to Morris for sending a team as the last minute, all the way across the country (same as Philly). There's something about how a club can jump on a plane at the last minute that makes this game special.
But ... Morris will not win this tournament. NOVA, which is talented and deep, should win, with Berkeley a blose second, and possibly even better than that.
Our Picks: 1st NOVA, 2nd Berkeley
Pool D: DC Furies, San Diego Surfers, Middlesex Falcons, Berkeley All Blues 2
Just keep naming names ... Ida Bernstein, Elizabeth White, Brenna Costello ... the Furies have been here before. But, DC will be heartily challenged by San Diego. The Surfers have won this tournament before, and are smarter and better now.
Our Picks: 1st San Diego, 2nd DC Furies
That would create these quarterfinals:
Seattle v Boston - Seattle wins
San Diego v Berkeley - Close, but Berkeley wins
NOVA v DC - NOVA
Youngbloodz v North Shore - Youngbloodz... maybe
Seems there is a tough side to this bracket and a not-so-tough side.
That would set up Seattle against Berkeley and NOVA against Youngbloodz.
We like Seattle and NOVA, and then in the final, it's too close to call. We'll take NOVA, but it's very close.