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Women All-Stars Push for Eagle Spots

Saturday Aug 29, 2009 in Sevens All-Stars

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(Ed Hagerty photo)

New York City – Despite the rain, USA 7s Women’s coach Sue Parker stationed herself atop the video scaffolding at the All Star 7s Championship, as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic raced to the top of their pools while Southern California and defending champ Midwest went 0-3.

“It’s obvious which teams have had time together,” Parker said as she reflected on the overall level of play. “There were some surprises, some players we’d never heard of who really impressed us.”

No surprises from the Northeast, which had the most star power of all the territories. Ines Rodriguez at flyhalf brought a great intensity to the line, and wing Ida Bernstein was nearly unstoppable once she whipped around the corner en route to the try zone.

“They did exactly what we wanted them to do,” NRU coach Chris Ryan said, “and they got better with each match.”

Ryan credited the defense in the Nessies’ three shutout wins and 56-point differential. “We’re going to keep focusing on our defense, getting in everyone’s face and turning turnovers into tries.”

Another bright light was MARFU, who only gave up two tries during the day. Many of the Sharks are NOVA players, who returned to the East Coast two weeks ago with the inaugural Women’s Club 7s NIT title. MARFU relied on a very aggressive defense as well, behind NIT MVP Beth Black and 7s Eagle Lauren Hoeck. CJ Hildreth found the try zone more than anyone else on any other team that day.

The most exciting match of the day occurred between MARFU and the Pacific Coast, who also advance to the Cup round tomorrow with the USA Developmental squad. The Grizzlies’ Ardia Kelker (who had four tries Saturday) and Ruth Bryson matched tries from Hildreth and Stacy Bennett, and the first half ended 10-all. The second half belonged to the Pacific Coast, which botched two scoring opportunities. During one of MARFU’s lone possessions in Grizzly territory, the West Coast side was penalized in front of the posts and set up Brenna Costello’s game-ending 3-pointer from about 25 meters out.

As for the USA Developmental team, Sadie Anderson played well but was called twice for receiving forward passes as she busted through the line. It was one of those forgivable infractions, since the day was marred by dropped balls, some due to the rain. Kelly Seary, Beantown’s flyhalf, also showed well as she looks to make her first foray into the USA 7s pool.

On the other end of the spectrum, 2008 All Star champion Midwest just couldn’t get the offensive chemistry nailed down, and were too fond of contact. Southern California had the biggest point differential (-71) and were missing the grounding force of Kelly White, who was originally supposed to make the trip.

The Bowl should come down to the South and West on Sunday. The South has a lot of veteran leadership in Pat Neder, Patty Jervey and Annie Antar, with Heather Hale on the sideline. But the West definitely has youth. In particular, Claire Gregorich was extremely exciting. She hit with the line with great pace and has excellent one-on-one skills.

For players like Gregorich competing on teams that struggled, Parker was reassuring. “We’re looking for athleticism,” she explained. “We’re not so concerned about their skill set – skills can be taught.”

As the playoffs kick off tomorrow morning, the women have two more games to warrant a phone call from the new 7s coach.

Pool A
Northeast 10, Midwest 0
Northeast 27, USA Dev 0
Northeast 19, South 0
USA Dev 12, South 0
USA Dev 24, Midwest 10
South 22, Midwest 7

Pool B
Mid-Atlantic 12, West 0
Mid-Atlantic 13, Pacific Coast 10
Mid-Atlantic 25, Southern California 0
Pacific Coast 15, Southern California 5
Pacific Coast 17, West 0
West 36, Southern California 0

- Jackie Finlan

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