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NOVA Poised to Peak

  • 09 Aug 2018

Photo: Boathouse Sports / One More Shot Photography / view more

The USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship features an even number of 7s-only programs and year-round teams that play both 7s and 15s. Before USA Rugby adopted the women’s championship, it was NOVA that set the standard for elite 7s, valuing the sprinting version of the sport as something more than a pick-up game, and sent numerous players to the Eagles. The Mid-Atlantic team is a constant presence at nationals and continues its unbroken tradition as a title contender this weekend.

“I think our team was disappointed in coming in third from our region, but seeding only matters so much when every pool is hyper-competitive,” NOVA co-captain Meganne Atkins explained. “The best teams peak at the right time and I think NOVA is poised for an outstanding weekend.”

That insight comes from years at 7s nationals, something Atkins and teammates like Lauren Hoeck, Kathryn Hemlock, Ariel Johnson and Nicole Benedetti understand. All told, seven players have returned from last year’s nationals squad, and three of the new players have previous NOVA experience, allowing for a speedier connection.

Check out these great player profiles on NOVA’s Instagram

“Chrissy Metzmaier is one of those players. She brings an incredible spark to our team every time she hits the field,” Atkins praised. “Sierra Parks is also new this year. She came up through our NOVA 2 program last year. I have been impressed by her development all season and I think she is poised to make a big impact at nationals. We have also brought back Vanessa Gardellim from the 2015 team. She is a former Brazilian national team player and has extensive international experience. Through her experience she brings leadership and a sense of patience in highly contested matches.”

The whistle has changed hands this summer, as Nancy Fitz stepped in for long-time coach Dana Creager. Atkins is a fan of the new dynamic.

Photo: Boathouse Sports / One More Shot Photography / view more

“She encourages the creativity of players that I think is going to be a major strength at nationals,” Atkins reviewed Fitz’s influence. “She has also encouraged us to take ownership of our team in designing new plays and structures. My co-captain, Emily Blease, has done just that leading from the front all season. I think she is one of the most underestimated players we have. She is smart, strong and very talented. She makes everyone around her better.”

The same can be said for the Mid-Atlantic competition as a whole. NOVA finished behind Scion and the D.C. Furies, and in front of Philly, during the region’s 7s series.

Photo: Boathouse Sports / One More Shot Photography / view more

“We have a well organized, well established competitive season, which has the added benefit of high-level refereeing, that truly prepares us for nationals,” Atkins tipped her hat to organizers. “It is not surprising to me at all that we have three highly competitive teams coming out of the region, any one of which, I think, could go all the way this year.”

NOVA has tough work ahead in Pool C, where Washington Athletic Club (WAC), New York and the Atlanta Harlequins await. NOVA played WAC (which was essentially Seattle Atavus) to a 21-17 loss in last year’s pool play, and also faced New York in the Plate semifinals (20-7 loss).

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