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Club 7s: TRB Favorites

  • 12 Aug 2019

Evan Hoese @ 2018 WPL nationals / Photo: Jackie Finlan (TRB)

There was a lot of rugby in Kansas City, Mo., last weekend and while focus tends to follow the title race, the whole tournament was rife with notable performances. Below are those that continue to stand out even after the trophy’s been awarded and the community shifts toward 15s.

RELATED: San Diego Wins Club 7s Nationals


Penn State alumna AMANDA BERTA has spent time in Chula Vista – and is emblematic of the tall, fast athlete that USA 7s head coach Chris Brown prefers – and competed internationally with the USA Falcons, but this was her first appearance at the club 7s national tournament. She trained up with Chicago Lions this summer and head coach Jeremy Nash lauded her influence on the squad during the Midwest series. In Kansas City, the former soccer player looked completely comfortable in the playmaker role and taking conversions, and she was equally good in the open field, supporting breakaways for tries and planting good form tackles. She was all over Chicago’s score sheet and a major factor in the Lions advancing to the Cup bracket.

KAYLA LAWSON, too, made her first appearance at nationals and deployed her track speed along the sideline and in the chase, much to San Diego’s benefit. A notable showdown occurred in the Cup quarterfinals, when San Diego faced Washington Athletic Club and Eagle Jennine Detiveaux lined up against Lawson. Neither could get around the other, and Lawson held her own against a bigger, stronger, internationally tested wing. She earned accolades from Brown during his time in the commentary booth.

Brown bestowed the ultimate accolade on TEIGAN MACDONALD, naming the Surfer the championship MVP. San Diego head coach Kate Zackary had pointed to the college-aged player during a preview, indicating that the NorCal native pays no deference to size disparities and plays a hard-nosed brand of rugby. MacDonald was all over the place in Kansas City, from flying through the air on restarts, to digging through the breakdowns, to looping out wide for tries, earning MVP.

There was some disparity between ARPTC White and the top-eight teams, but that didn’t inhibit the spotlight from shining on deserving players. KATHERINE LOHAUS, in particular, drew attention and made a good case for fastest player in the tournament. She was crucial in the chase-down and also drew a nod from Eagle coach Brown.


It’s becoming more and more common to see collegians feature at nationals, and that trend will only heighten as time goes on.

If you’re hip to the collegiate scene, then SATIVA TARAU-PEEHIKURU isn’t a new name. The New Zealander has featured on Lindenwood University’s many national championship teams and is the type of player who looks for work and finishes tries. In the 7s championship with Life West, which featured multiple 7s and 15s Eagles, she made a big impact with her defense. She hit contact with turnover force, was fast over the ball, and impressively consistent among her senior counterparts.

MORGAN FREEMAN is also of the Lindenwood breed and the rising sophomore set the tone for physicality on Phoenix, which also featured the Canadian Harvey sisters (two of which are college aged). Depending on the team, the Floridian plays flanker or center in 15s, and the grittiness and vision required of those two positions comes through in her 7s game. Freeman earned high praise from USA U20 coach Ricardo Ramirez during the Tri Nations tour in England, too.

SAHER HAMDAN is also a rising sophomore at Notre Dame College and also traveled to England for the Tri Nations tournament. In between the Ohioan refined her skills in Little Rock with ARPTC and featured on the White, or developmental, side. The hooker is confident with ball in hand and has great footwork, and displayed as much in Kansas City and overseas.

New York might have had a disappointing tournament, finishing 10th overall, but MATILDA KOCAJ was a bright spot. She attended the Collegiate All-American assembly in Greeley, Colo., when the team took on WPL and senior club opposition, and showed no signs of intimidation in Kansas City. Surrounded by capped Eagles and internationals, the young player was super solid in the tackle and showcased good speed in finishing tries.


It’s tempting to exclude capped 7s and 15s players from recognition, because the expectation is that they stand out, and why state the obvious? But that isn’t a given, and tent with some of his former residents as they made poor decisions or their skills failed in pressure situations. The following players – not all of which are internationals – put in round performances that promoted a generally successful tournament.

KIKI MORGAN is equal parts scoring threat and cleaner-upper. As dazzling as the Scion Siren is with ball in hand, it’s the never-say-die defense and tackle completion that energize an already talent-dense squad. “You’re never too far away from Kiki Morgan,” the commentators said as breakaway after breakaway was brought down short of the try line, and they were absolutely correct. Morgan is really good over the ball as well, and of course, scores tries.

ALENA OLSEN drew praise from coach Brown, who likened the halfback’s sense of the game to New Zealand’s Tyla Nathan Wong. Both have unorthodox approaches to the kickoff, and Olsen’s was the best of the tournament, giving her on-running teammates the opportunity to get hands on the ball. Olsen was a terror around the scrum and routinely disrupted the opposition’s clean ball or stole possession. She ran good lines and finished off tries en route to the championship title.

We’re a fan of Atlanta and all the young talent that it’s attracting and sharpening for the upper levels, but at the heart of it all is MO COMPITO, who is on the “older” end of the spectrum at 30. She has a voracious work rate getting from breakdown to breakdown, and can easily pop out with possession and pull away with finishing speed. In the scrums, the hooker matches the power of props Chi Chi Chukwueke and Cyndi Campbell, who had opponents driving backward. Just a fun player to watch and inspirational leader for the Harlequins.

MEGAN SANDERS was in the middle of Washington Athletic Club’s Plate-winning performance. Half of a really smart halfback pair (Anne Peterson completing the duo), the flyhalf knew when to send it or keep the ball and pierce, had the wherewithal to hold up a ballcarrier and deaden an attack, and of course scored tries. The team nearly took down San Diego in the Cup quarterfinals and it was Sanders’ score that put WAC ahead 12-7 into the break. The win didn’t pan out but Sanders rallied the squad for two more wins on the day for some hardware.


BULOU MATAITOGA and EVAN HOESE belong in the All-Arounds but they’re so good in tandem that they deserve their own category. They are the playmakers who use their international experience and skill to elevate their teammates, which is easy to do when people like Shelby Lin and Erika Granger and Christina Ramos are the caliber of player surrounding them. When the team needs a boost, they’re good for a linebreak and offload through contact, which gets the support game moving and confidence reforming. When a shifty ballcarrier is distressing the defense, they’ll make the crunching tackle that allows a teammate to get over the ball and poach. They have different attributes in their play – Mataitoga is more magic and pop, while Hoese is more discernment – and it makes for the perfect pairing when they’re next to each other.

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