This weekend, after last weekend's monumental results, teams will head back to regional qualifiers with either a renewed sense of hope, or a clear understanding of exactly what they'll have to do in order to qualify for nationals.
With five tournaments taking place across the country, some teams will be looking to wrap their qualification to New York up; while others, will be looking to kick start or claw their way back into the thick of the qualification races. It will be a weekend filled with pivotal moments for teams throughout every competitive region.
The Pacific Northwest will be getting their season underway, for both men and women. Despite not playing last weekend, the men's teams in the Pacific Northwest were dealt a massive blow to their qualification chances when Belmont Shore took out the Western Open over Life West. This granted the Pacific South with an additional seed in nationals, providing Belmont Shore finishes in one of the qualifying positions. This means the Pacific North will only have one representative in nationals. Westside Ronins and Washington Athletic will be the two favorites to come away with the spoils this weekend. The Ronins were impressive in the Western Open last weekend and fell just short of the reaching the championship game. Washington Athletic have a team filled with experience, and will cause headaches for all that they come up against.
For the women the reigning champions, Seattle Atavus will be hoping to start their title defense in style by taking out the tournament. It won't be an easy road for them, as they'll come up against high caliber opposition including last year's bronze winner, Life West Gladiatrix. In the Pacific North, there are three spots available to the women for a spot at nationals, but following a similar structure to the Midwest, the spots will not be settled until the final qualifier, which will act as the sole determiner as to who will get into the nationals. Do not be surprised if some of the bigger squads tinker with their lineups in the tournaments leading up to the championship. They will do this to ensure that when they get to the championship they have the best combination possible.
Showdown at the Shore
In the Northeast teams return to the pitch and look to solidify their positions within the region. For the men, they will be participating in their third qualifier, and for the women they'll be going into their second. The men, have three qualifying spots which appear to be relatively sewn up. In the first two tournaments, the final standings have been identical, Old Blue has won both, Mystic River has finished second and New York Athletic Club has finished third. There are still two qualifiers left, so nothing can be taken for granted, but early indications point to the final qualifiers being used to sort out seedings for nationals.
The women are entering their second qualifier, and teams could book their tickets to nationals this weekend. After the first qualifier, it is New York Rugby Club sitting in pole, with Beantown right behind them. There are only three total qualifiers for the women, if NYRC and Beantown are able to repeat their efforts this weekend, they'll have all but wrapped up their spot in Nationals. Empire Selects and Boston will be looking to salvage their seasons, and push their rivals right to the end of the qualification.
Teams in the Midwest get back into the thick of it after a week off. Teams aren't jockeying for a position in nationals, just yet, rather they are trying to get the best seeding possible as they head into the Midwest Championship. After the first tournament in both the men's and women's competition it was Metropolis that put their stamp on the competition, running through their opponents. For the women, neither Chicago teams, the Lions or Northshore, were able to make their way into the final, both will be looking to rectify their early hiccups this weekend, and get into a winning form. For the men, the Chicago Lions made it to the Championship game, but fell just short, they too will be hoping for a better outcome in their second Midwest outing.
Rocky Mountain 7s
Women's qualifying in the Frontier Region kicks off and with only one team advancing through from the region and only two qualifying tournaments this weekend will have a major impact on the teams and their hopes of qualifying for nationals. The favorites coming into the weekend will be the Glendale Merlins, who last year were able to win the bowl at Nationals. They'll be facing some stiff opposition, but with their depth of talent and experience, they will be a tough beat.
Monk Vaughn 7s
In a reverse of the Frontier, the men of the Mid-Atlantic will head to their third qualifier this weekend, in the hopes of creating some separation as they all vie for the single qualification spot. In the last qualifier Schuylkill River had the chance to claim their second qualifier, as they went up 17-0 against Beltway Elite in the final. However, Beltway dug themselves out of their deficit to claim the title and cause a deadlock in the standings. Both teams will be looking to at the very least outperform the other to create some sort of breathing space heading into the final qualifier next weekend. They will have to be careful not to think it is only a two-horse race, as Rocky Gorge, after an impressive performance in last weekend's Eastern Open, has shown that they are a force to be reckoned with too. The tournament will be a tense affair and one that could set the platform for a team to qualify next weekend.