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Rocky Mountain Magic’s Here to Stay

  • 09 Aug 2018

The USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship has featured a Denver-area team the last few years, although the banner has morphed from the Rocky Mountain Squids, to the Glendale Raptors, to the Glendale Merlins. This year, the Rocky Mountain Magic is doing the honors, but the intention is to become its own entity and guarantee its existence in subsequent summers.

Glendale did not formally support men’s or women’s 7s this summer, so Alli Hale, Nichole Wanamaker and Jess Dombrowski, among others, approached 2017 Merlins 7s coach Sam Enari to undertake a new venture with them. Similar to previous teams, the Rocky Mountain Magic features 15s players from the Merlins, Denver Black Ice and collegians from the area. Unlike previous teams, the Magic intends to return each summer and build some real momentum in a region hurting for competition.

“It was a concerted effort by core players to have a 7s-specific club for the summer, one that isn’t always in flux, and provides an opportunity for those players who want to play 7s at a higher level,” Enari said. “I was honored that they asked me to come on for the inaugural run because they had plenty of coaches to choose from.”

The Magic has plenty interest from Denver-area players and has added talent like Hannah Tennant, former Davenport University captain who represented ARTPC last summer; Morgan McGonagle, recent Dartmouth grad who helped the Big Green to second place in NIRA; Frankie Beller of UVA and NOVA renown; and Zoe Sharplin, who ran track in college and ups the speed quotient of the squad.

Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Magic

The pieces started coming together at the Austin Bloodfest, where the Magic placed second to ARTPC Blue. The first Frontier qualifier was held in Denver, and Magic split games with the other nationals-vying team, KC Jazz, during the round robin. The second qualifier in Kansas City, Mo., was supposed to decide the berth to nationals but weather halted the tournament before the two teams could play each other. After attempts to reschedule failed, the berth was decided by committee.

“I wish we could have played Kansas City and go [to nationals] the right way,” said Enari, who said the committee weighed results against common opponents in making the decision. “There’s no fallout between teams or coaches. The Jazz have been really supportive of us in this run and we want to do well for the region.”

That July 14 qualifier was the last 7s competition for the Magic. There’s always concern about enough field time but it’s something with which Rocky Mountain 7s teams are familiar. So the team focuses its energies inward and refines the elements it can control, and that strategy worked incredibly well last year. The Merlins went 5-1, only losing its opening pool game to Life West (36-10) before defeating Scion, Tempe, Philly, Beantown and Orlando.

“Last year was an experiment for a lot of the players, and being able to turn it on mentally – not starting slowly – was an issue,” Enari said of lessons pulled forward. “Our core players are still here, and new players have competed at 7s and/or 15s nationals in college, so the ‘big stage’ isn’t going to scare them. We like the pool that we landed in and we’re as ready as we can be. We have a real shot at turning some heads at nationals.”

Rocky Mountain Magic is competing in Pool A against Life West, D.C. Furies and Phoenix (from the South). Enari indicated that the goal is to get out of pool play and then go for it on day two, when anything can happen.

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