Marywood 7s All-Tournament Team / Photos: Marywood Women’s Rugby Facebook (see more)
Rugby PA kicked off its fall 7s season last weekend and saw teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York converge on Marywood University, the first of four stops before the Oct. 28 state championship. The four 7s tournaments do not comprise a series, in that there are no standings or final-place points or even participation requirements to compete at the state championship. The culminating tournament is, however, restricted to Pennsylvania teams only.
Downington emerged as the top Pennsylvania team last weekend, dropping a 27-22 decision to New York in the final. Andrew Fell is heading Downingtown’s fall 7s team for the first time, but he’s familiar with the players. Fell has been a player and/or coach within the club for a decade, and co-ed practices occur in the fall, splitting for things like contact. So Fell has known some of the players since they started playing in fifth grade, and spoke of a team with a high rugby IQ, even if some of the athleticism is wanting.
“In 7s, we’re always kind of right there, but not quite. We’ll usually win a couple of tournaments, but not the one we need to. We’ve finished second in the state two or three times,” Fell reviewed Downingtown’s history. “But everyone was proud of how we did [at Marywood]. If anything, they were exhausted. It’s tough to pile on those games at the end of the day like that.”
Captains Natalie Hiller and April Pagel drive Downingtown, and on Sunday, Kat Storey – the lone player outside of the Downingtown school district – was named to the all-tournament team as the squad’s MVP. Faith Morley, Emma Rutkowski, Audra Fabrizio all had good days at Marywood as well.
“We won all of our games until the final. New York had a couple of athletes that we didn’t notice in our first game, but they took over the final and it was hard to do anything with them,” Fell praised New York. “They can turn a game. … But if you know where you need to be, if you can tackle and do your job, that’s valuable.”
Downingtown will see many of the same teams through the Rugby PA- sponsored events but is mixing up its schedule with a trip to North Bay, Md., home to an excellent 7s and 15s program. The trip is more convenient than the Kiski Valley stop in the western portion of the state. The Pittsburgh-area teams also replace some Rugby PA stops with more local events, bringing an interesting element to the state championship.
“For the most part, we know how everyone looks by the time we get to states, but the Pittsburgh teams are always a question mark,” Fell said. “We don’t see them in as many regular tournaments, so West Pitt, Kiski – you always have to worry that they might surprise you.”
Rocky Nurss is in charge of West Pitt United, and 17 of 20 players hail from his 15s team, Moon Area High School.
“We took the approach that Marywood was a pre-season tournament, where we could get our chemistry down with the newcomers and those who didn’t play 7s over the summer. There’s a learning curve transitioning from 15s to 7s,” Nurss said.
“Top to bottom, there was a lot of talent and some good 7s,” the coach said of the competition. “Sometimes you see teams playing 7s because there are seven girls on the field, but they’re not necessarily playing 7s. More coaches are adopting and teaching 7s to their teams.”
West Pitt United won the Plate, defeating Penn Legacy 35-5. Makenna Tuman, who plays 15s with North Pitt United, was named to the All-Tournament team after scoring eight tries across four games, and making numerous big tackles. The coach also highlighted young talent in Alyssa Lerch and Haley Ambrose.
The Rugby PA 7s fall season continues this weekend at Penn Legacy, and will relocate to Kiski Valley on Oct. 7 and West Shore on Oct. 14. The girls’ division will get a bye weekend before the state championship on Oct. 28 at LaSalle College High School.
For more information, visit www.rugbypa.org.
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