Article by Alex Solomon | Originally published at usarugby.org
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Four teams from the Atlantic North can begin to make travel plans for Denver after qualifying for the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships at Dick's Sporting Good Park. Outside of the Atlantic North, teams like the Oklahoma Elite, Old Mission Beach Athletic Club and Schuylkill River did their part to improve their chances at a berth to Nationals.
Saratoga 7s - Saratoga, NY
It was New York Athletic Club's day in the sun in Saratoga over the weekend, but it has been the summer of Old Blue in the Atlantic North. The men of Old Blue fell to NYAC in the Final of Saratoga 7s, but their body of work over the past month was good enough to earn the club the No. 1 seed to Club 7s Nationals. Mystic River, the team Old Blue narrowly defeated in the Semifinals of Saratoga 7s, hold onto the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic North by defeating the Village Lions in the Plate.
The women of Old Blue also punched their ticket to Colorado to play in Nationals after missing out on last year's Championship event. Old Blue's top side went undefeated throughout the summer, and regularly submitted two teams to Nationals, while three Old Blue squads competed in Saratoga. The club's first unit continued its impressive winning streak at the Atlantic North's final qualifying tournament.
After accumulating a plus-119 scoring margin during three pool play wins, Old Blue eliminated New York Rugby Club in the Semifinals. The other Semifinal saw New England rivals Boston Rugby and Beantown butt heads, but it was Boston prevailing towards the Final. In that final game, Boston threw everything it had at Old Blue, but the 2014 Club 7s Cup Finalists posted one more try than Boston and took the title, 10-5.
Boston will join Old Blue at Nationals, and will be anxious to touch down in Denver to improve on last year's results. 2015 was Boston's first appearance at a Club 7s Championship, and the team was not able to post a victory. Its five-point loss to an impressive Old Blue side should give the women of Boston some added confidence going into the club's final stretch of preparation for Nationals.
Slug 7s - Columbia, MD
Men's and Women's Cup Finals of the 26th annual Slug 7s were not able to be competed due to lightning cutting the afternoon short in Columbia. Four teams did, however, pick up their share of first-place Mid-Atlantic qualifying points ahead of the fourth and final regional stop - the Monk Vaughn 7s.
The Cup Final in the women's bracket would have seen regional favorites Northern Virginia Rugby take on the Scion Sirens. Instead, the two shared first-place at Slug 7s which is good enough to basically seal Scion's place at Nationals, while giving NOVA padding ahead of Mid-Atlantic third-place side, Philadelphia.
Schuylkill River appeared to be on its way to its first Mid-Atlantic tournament win of the summer, but mother nature had other plans. Three pool play wins, including one against Rocky Gorge, and a 15-5 Semifinal victory over Washington Irish had Schuylkill River sitting pretty. By the same token, Norfolk was feeling good after its 2-1 pool play mark, which was enough to see the Blues into the Semifinals, where it played and defeated NOVA, 10-7. That was when play was halted.
Parity in the men's Mid-Atlantic should make this weekend's Monk Vaughn 7s very excited. NOVA, Rocky Gorge, and Schuylkill River each have a first-place finish to their names this summer, and will battle each other for two Mid-Atlantic berths to Nationals.
Duck 7s - Iowa City, IA
The Chicago Lions will be one of the favorites to claim one of two spots to Nationals at the July 30 Midwest 7s Championships. The Lions won their third consecutive tournament, and did so without dropping a single match. Three pool play wins led to an all-Chicago Semifinal versus the Blaze, which the Lions captured. The other Semifinal pitted Metropolis against the Milwaukee Barbarians. The boys from Minneapolis doubled-up the Barbarians, 24-12, placing them in their first Cup Final of the summer.
Unfortunately for Metropolis, the Lions fended off their counterpart, 19-12, to clinch the West's No. 1 seed heading into the July 30 Midwest Championship. Expected to join the Lions in Lemont, Ill., at the end of the month are fellow West representatives the Blaze, Metropolis and the Barbarians. In the East, 1823 Rugby has been absolutely dominant, while the Cincinnati Wolfhounds and Cleveland Crusaders could factor into the Midwest Championships.
The women's bracket at Duck 7s enjoyed a bit of a shocker when the Chicago Griffins, a team that had not finished better than fifth at either of the previous Midwest stops, surprised many by placing first. It was a monumental afternoon for the Griffins, but 1823, the Chicago Lions, and Youngbloodz are each in better position to stake claim to the two women's Midwest seeds to Nationals.
Pacific North (Pacific Northwest)
Roy Lucas 7 - Portland, OR
The women of Seattle Saracens victoriously emerged from an impressive Semifinal field at the Roy Lucas 7s. Women's Premier League sides Glendale Raptors and San Diego Surfers made the trip to the Pacific Northwest for an uptick in competition, but it was the local squads that prevailed. Oregon Sports Union barely edged the Surfers, 12-7, while the Saracens had its way with the Raptors, 37-7.
In the Final, the Saracens avenged a title match defeat ORSU handed them last week at the Can-Am 7s by besting ORSU, 22-19. Both ORSU and Seattle have 2016 first-place trophies from the Pacific Northwest qualifying series, making both legitimate contenders at July 30's Pacific North 7s Championship.
The Saracens men's team continued to breeze through its Pacific North competition. With Eagles Sevens playmaker Peter Tiberio back in the fold, Seattle dominated its morning matches before blanking Oregon State in the Semifinals and demolishing the Westside Ronin, 47-7.
Sunsplash 7s - Long Beach, CA
Old Mission Beach needed a Pacific South first-place finish in a big way, and that is exactly what the boys from San Diego accomplished over the weekend. After three consecutive fourth-place finishes in its competitive region, OMBAC found itself in fourth place overall heading into Sunsplash 7s.
A fortunate draw for OMBAC allowed the Pacific Rugby Premiership side to avoid the Pacific South's top-three teams in both the Quarterfinals and Semifinals - which produced victories over Belmont Shore's B-team and Los Angeles, respectively. Meanwhile, the other Semifinal featured extra time between Belmont Shore and Santa Monica, which the Dolphins would pull out successfully.
The effort put forth by Santa Monica to reach the Final benefitted the fresher OMBAC squad that was able to dispose of its Southern California rival, 15-10.
Looking ahead to this weekend's Pacific South Championship, Belmont Shore's two first-place finishes in June have the team looking safe to remain as one of the top-two finishers in the region, while OMBAC and Santa Monica could end up battling for the No. 2 seed out of the Pacific South. The Orange Country Ravens have been the surprise story out of the region, but finished a disappointing sixth in Long Beach, and might need to pull off a tournament victory this weekend in Santa Monica in order to qualify for the 16-team men's field at Nationals.
South (True South)
Music City 7s - Nashville, TN
The Oklahoma Elite will play in this weekend's South 7s Championship after taking top prize at Music City 7s. The youngsters from Oklahoma have steadily improved throughout the summer, and showed their finest form in Nashville by beating the Atlanta Renegades, Chattanooga and Nashville in the Semifinal to set up a rematch against the Renegades in the Final.
Atlanta would take an early 5-0 advantage over the Elite in the Final, but that was when Oklahoma tightened its grip on defense while adding two tries to win the Music City title, 12-5. The tournament victory places Oklahoma in this weekend's South 7s Championship where it can expect to run up against the likes of Atlanta Old White, Charlotte, Miami, Naples, and others.