The Women's Club 7s National Championship kicks off this Saturday in San Francisco on Treasure Island. Below is a preview of Pool B.
Pool B: #1 Boston Belles, #2 Southern Exposure, #3 Philadelphia, #4 Emerald City Mudhens
In Pool B, the race is for second place. The Boston Belles have looked as sharp as last year, when the team advanced to the final of the club 7s nationals. Many of their core players have returned, including Jess Peterson, Danielle Miano, Ashley Clancey and Emily Malkin. The 7s-only club has enjoyed the addition of Amy Daniels, Kate Augustyn and Alyssa Green to fill out a very impressive, fast and well drilled lineup. The Belles won the Northeast championship easily. The only chink in their armor availed itself in their first pool game of the territorial championship, when a contact-eager Pony Express challenged the Belles’ ability to move the ball wide.
The Belles’ roster hasn’t been released, but they have such great depth and don’t miss a step when subs take the pitch. The Boston team should take the top seed out of pool B easily, which will pit them against pool A’s #2 team – likely Chicago North Shore or Seattle – in the Cup Quarterfinals Sunday.
The real competition is for that second berth to the Cup Quarterfinals. It’ll come down to Southern Exposure, Philadelphia and Emerald City Mudhens. Number-two seeded Southern Exposure is in its third year of existence, consisting primarily of younger athletes. No other team expressed a desire to attend nationals, so Southern Exposure took the lone South seed without competition.
That said, the all-star team has done well this summer, winning six of the seven tournaments they’ve entered. Matt Wililams and Pat Neder are the driving forces behind the team, and well-knowns like East Carolina’s Jessica Peterson and Raleigh’s Laketa Sutton anchor the squad. We might see Neder on the field, as the club’s CIPP roster only shows 10 players. So even if all of the players make the trip, it’s going to be a long tournament with so few substitutes.
The Emerald City Mudhens won’t have an issue with numbers, and we think they’re actually the #2 team in the pool. The Mudhens finished third at the Pacific Coast Championship, but coach Phil Killham was displeased with the team’s performance. Some mitigating circumstances – late flights and players – tinged their territorial showing, but nationals has been on their calendars all year, so everyone should be on a level playing field.
The Mudhens are led by Eagle wing Ashley Kmiecik. Her speed and aggression in contact sets the tone for Emerald City, and she’ll be the main scoring threat for the Pacific Northwest squad. Kammi Lopez will also serve as an important leader on another young squad, which comprises the majority of the team.
Killham is convinced that former All American Christina Zier will be the next Eagle hooker, so she’ll be fun to watch. Sarah Falk was the MVP of the Vancouver 7s, and recent college grads Claire Lundy, Leah Bueing and April Fogel bring a diversity of pace, tenacity and kicking options.
The Mudhens have augmented its domestic schedule with trips north to Canada, where there’s more competitive women’s 7s teams. They followed the Pacific Coast Championship with another tour to British Columbia, competing at the Abbotsford International 7s. If Emerald City can hit the ground running, then expect an even better performance in San Francisco.
Philadelphia round out the pool and they represent another late addition to the nationals’ lineup. They finished fourth at the Mid-Atlantic Championship, which ended without playing through the knockout rounds due to weather. The finish was decided upon verbally, initially leaving Philly without a chance to earn its way to nationals.
So the absence of the West and Military teams was a blessing for Philly. They’ll have their work cut out for them, especially considering the fact that only nine players are traveling to San Francisco. No big names on the roster, with the exception of Kate Hallinan, who’s been in the regional 7s scene for a long time.
The top two teams will advance to the Cup Quarterfinals, and we expect the Belles and Emerald City Mudhens to take those slots. The bottom two will head to the Bowl Quarterfinals. Below are game times for Saturday.
Saturday Pool Play
1100 - Boston Belles v Emerald City Mudhens
1120 - Philadelphia v Southern Exposure
1400 - Boston Belles v Philadelphia
1420 - Southern Exposure v Emerald City Mudhens
1700 - Boston Belles v Southern Exposure
1720 - Philadelphia v Emerald City Mudhens