The women's club 7s nationals are set for Blaine, MN, and while there are 16 teams competing, we have five we think you should take a close look at.
Seattle AtavusSo Atavus sponsors the Seattle team, which has started to make the waves we thought they would make a few years ago. This has become a go-to program in terms of looking for a summer champion, and they've got a ton of talent. Coached by former England standout Michaela Staniford, who coached the Atavus girls at the recent NAI 7s, Seattle has some international-level players such as Megan Sanders and Jennine Duncan. Watch out also for Erica Legaspi, who played for this writer in high school, and has terrific pace and a good head for the game.
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Life WestBitsy Cairns is back with a team that knows how to run and knows how to hit hard. If there's an ongoing criticism of American 7s rugby it's the two-fold contradictor observation that teams go into contact too much, but aren't physical enough.
Life West does well to move the ball and find space. But when they are bottled up, the Gladiatrix are not afraid to be the hammer in any contact situation. More teams need to play this way.
San DiegoSan Diego's proximity to the USA training grounds in Chula Vista means that, for now, the club can get some pretty high-powered talent. Several of the players on the San Diego club have played with the USA or with the USA Falcons in 15s or 6s. Co-captains Tia Blythe and Josie Ziluca have had high-level experience, and Kelsi Stockert remains a player who can turn a game around with her powerful running.
Where do you put all this talent? Maybe that's the question of the day for the Breakers. Our feeling is they have been hit hard enough to be humble and to not take things for granted. As a result, San Diego could be a national title contender.
American Rugby Pro Training CenterARPTC 7s is a team that brings in players from all over, and as such it's all about getting everyone to play as a unit. Former USA great Laura Cabrera coaches them and she has some veterans, some youngsters (Olivia Ortiz is a small, scrappy scrumhalf who anyone who loves rugby will love watching), and a few players from outside the USA.
It's an intriguing combination, but have they been tested? Can they come out of the blocks early and play well? Can they stay united? All of these questions remain unanswered at present.
AustinThe Austin Valkyries made the 2016 national tournament and then lost all of their games in a rather humbling trial by fire. It's a testament to their resiliency that the Valkyries return this year. About half of last year's team is back for another shot, and they've added some additional talent, including Fiji's Lucy Stanley.
But the intriguing thing is that we get to watch some athletes who got a shock a year ago and learned from it. How much they learned, and whether that con produce a win or two, or maybe consolation bracket success, will be what we're looking for.