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7s Title Contenders Emerge

  • 27 May 2016

Life and Lindenwood won today. /// Photo: KJ Feury


The USA Rugby DI College 7s Championship began this evening in Cary, N.C., and the opening round lent insight into the title contenders and dark horses.


The most convincing win came from Pool B’s Life University over Texas A&M. The Running Eagles exerted consistent pressure on either side of the ball and had the skills to turn that possession into routine tries. Kim Semiglia was solid in support and proved the most successful finisher with three tries. Nicole Strasko (2), N’Keiah Butler, Whitney Wilson and Christina Swift also finished off good team ball for scores. Cynthia Kelly and Madison Ohmann handled the extras in the 52-0 win.


Conversely, a very tense game between UVA and Stanford evolved on the other side of Pool B. UVA had the first opportunity to score, as it turned over the opening kickoff, but good defense eventually pushed play back to midfield, where it remained for the majority of the half. Ball-handling was a work in progress for both teams, but UVA was able to make good ground through Summer Harris-Jones and Joy Jefferson breaks. The latter nearly skirted down the sideline for a breakaway try, but a last-gasp tackle saw the wing heave the ball into touch. From there, Stanford worked the lineout ball just past UVA’s onrushing defense, which didn’t pull the trigger on the tackle, to Maya Theurer on the wing. She hit that open space powerfully and pulled away for the centered try. Stanford led 5-0 into halftime.


The opening minutes of the second half stayed in UVA’s end despite a couple of exchanges in possession. A well positioned scrum allowed the Cardinal a few attacking phases, and Madda Wilson eventually dragged some defenders across the try line. Olivia Bernadel-Huey added the conversion for the 12-0 lead.


UVA then scored a similar-looking try to Theurer’s, as the team turned over possession near mid-field and then sent the ball to power-running Harris-Jones. Her long, strong stride saw her into the try zone easily, 12-5.


There were about two minutes left in regulation, and Stanford wasn’t chancing a tie. Fiona Meyer-Teruel stepped around her opposite and dotted down an immediate try, which Bernadel-Huey converted, and thus put the game out of reach, 19-5.


Pool C produced two 31-5 victories but the games had very different vibes. Central Washington was better skilled than North Carolina and did well to stay in the Tar Heels’ end for much of the game. UNC did prevent the shutout with a try just before the break, but the Wildcat defense – led by Jenny Johnson and Valerie Tobin – were too suppressive for any long stay on offense. Cassidy Meyers, Leah Ingold, Mckenzie Pusch, Johnson and Tobin all scored during the 31-5 victory.


Lindenwood triumphed 31-5 over Chico State, but the game wasn’t decidedly in the Lions’ favor until late. During the opening four minutes, the teams traded blows, until Lindenwood’s fast-up defense forced a bobbled pass into McKenzie Hawkins’ grasp. The freshman pulled away for the easy try. AnnaKaren Pedraza scored the first of her two tries right before the break, after Neariah Persinger freed the ball out of the wrap tackle for the offload. With two Hawkins conversions, Lindenwood led 14-0 into the break.


Persinger added a dive-over try in the corner (19-5) and then Chico answered with a full-field score. Stefani Bergerhouse cut through the belly of the defense, pushing off out-stretched arms for a long gain into Lindenwood’s end. Just when it looked like the Lions were going to poach the ball, Ashley von Bargen Allen came rumbling in for the clear, allowing the ball to move to Darby McFall – who was also great on defense – for the try.


Lindenwood neutralized that threat with a quick try that began with a Hawkins break. She waited for the defense to converge, hit Tiffany Person, and then looped around for the pass and try. Pedraza took a quick-tap penalty in for the final score, and Hannah Gauthreax added the extras for the win.


The three-team Pool A featured only one game today, as Penn State got the bye, but it was the closest of the day. UC Davis was favored against James Madison, but the Virginia team proved that one can’t judge a 7s team by its 15s success. JMU took the lead early on as Mia VanderToorn dotted down and Stephanie Goetz converted. The Aggies surged in the final minutes of the half, sending Rebecca Lehman and Rebecca Graff in for tries. Lehman’s conversion gave Davis the 12-5 lead into the break. But in minute 12, Kayla Cook crossed for the tying points, and there the game held through the final buzzer, 12-all.


The result makes Pool A even more interesting. If Davis and James Madison can’t beat Penn State, then the Cup quarterfinal berth will come down to point differential.


Games get rolling at 9 a.m. Eastern tomorrow, and Division II will join the action. Catch it live at


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