Article by Chad Wise | Originally published at usarugby.org
DES MOINES, Iowa – The USA Rugby Emirates Airline Women’s Club 7s National Championship kicks off at James W. Cownie Soccer Complex Saturday, Aug. 8, with 16 of the finest domestic programs competing for the coveted trophy.
San Diego Surfers return to defend their title after a 6-0 run in 2014, but a mix of newcomers and Club 7s veterans in the fifth edition of the event will give the reigning champions a run for their money.
San Diego Surfers, Orlando Rugby, Northern Virginia Rugby, Hawaii Lady Harlequins
San Diego will be one of the favorites in the women’s bracket, but the same could be said for any of the teams that make it out of the Surfers’ pool. Orlando Rugby will make its first appearance at Club 7s after winning multiple events in Florida, including the Phillippe “Fiji” Leka Memorial 7s event in Miami. Though the club lost Kristen Thomas to the Women’s Eagles Sevens last year, several skilled runners, including Jessica Warner, can cause problems on both sides of the ball.
Hawaii Lady Harlequins will be just the second club from the 50th state to play at Club 7s following Mana Wahine’s entry in 2014. National All-Star Camp attendee Ashley Sorenson, who has been on the Eagles’ radar for several years, helped the team defeat traditional powerhouse Kalihi Lady Raiders in the Hawaii State Championship Final to claim a spot in Des Moines. Featuring players from Australia, France, Sweden, and, of course, Hawaii, the Lady Harlequins could bring the intensity of Tropical Storm Guillermo to the midwest.
Northern Virginia Rugby won two of the MAC qualifiers before second-place performances at Ruggerama and the MAC Championship, beating conference opponents six times in eight opportunities. USA Rugby AIG Women’s Collegiate All-Americans Nicole Benedetti and Stephanie Goetz strengthen an already-formidable squad, which has placed in the top five at Club 7s since the inaugural women’s tournament in 2011.
New York Rugby, ICEF Rugby, Youngbloodz Rugby, Berkeley All Blues
ICEF Rugby features 10 players who grew up and played together at View Park High School in Los Angeles, and each of whom return to southern California in the summer to train with the program. The youngest side in the competition for the second year running, ICEF has the speed, size, skill, and endurance to threaten the established teams at Club 7s, as proven by its competitive matches with the Surfers in two tournaments this summer.
New York will look to improve upon its 2014 campaign, which saw the club lose the 11th-place match in Seattle. Berkeley All Blues will not have 2013 Club 7s MVP Irene Gardner in the squad, but travel to Iowa with an eye on the championship, last attained in Pittsburgh in 2013.
Life West Gladiatrix, Chicago Lions, Rocky Mountain Squids, Philadelphia Rugby
Life West’s men’s team has made a name for itself over the course of the past year with two appearances and one championship in 15s club rugby, but this is the first year a women’s program has taken to the pitch. With Gardner, USOC Olympic Training Center resident and WCAA Amy Naber, former captain of the Australia women’s sevens team, Cheryl McAfee, and 2014 Club 7s MVP Nia Williams, the Gladiatrix rolled through Tacoma 7s, the All Blues Elite Tournament, and won the NorCal 7s Series to qualify as the No. 1 seed from ARC1.
Rocky Mountain Squids (Selects at Club 7s in 2014) are made up of players from the Women’s Premier League Champions, Glendale Raptors, and Denver Black Ice. The two 15s rivals combine in the summer to play sevens, and do rather well in tournaments around the country. At Firehouse 7s in Lemont, Ill., the Squids, including capped Eagle Joanna Kitlinski, lost to Chicago Lions by a single try, setting up a fiery rematch on day one in Des Moines.
Scion Sirens, Seattle Saracens, Boston Rugby, American Rugby Pro
One of the newest members of USA Rugby’s Olympic Development Academy, American Rugby Pro Training Center in Little Rock, Ark., has raised the standard for training environments in the United States. Jessica Wooden earned her first cap with the Eagles at the Women’s Rugby Super Series last month, and perhaps made a case for herself as the team’s starting full back less than a year into the most recent Women’s Rugby World Cup cycle.
The Arkansas-based outfit also boasts multiple members of the WCAAs, AIG Women’s Junior All-Americans, and Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS. Seattle Saracens’ women also travel to Club 7s for the first time, though the team will have championship experience having won the Women’s Division I title in June.