James Madison wins NOVA 7s. /// Photo: MKA Photography
Two teams have guaranteed their spots at the College 7s Championship in May: Lindenwood and James Madison. Both won USA Rugby 7s qualifiers over the weekend and return to the national tournament on May 27-29 in Cary, N.C.
Lindenwood hosted the Lions Cup in St. Charles, Mo., and entered two teams against Michigan, Kent State, Ohio State and Wayne State. Both sides went undefeated through pool play and semifinals before facing each other in the final. Lindenwood Gold won the trophy 29-0 over Lindenwood Grey, capping a 205-0 performance on the day.
Lindenwood coach Billy Nicholas singled out freshman Reina Anderson (Brookfield, Wisc.) from the Grey team. She showed some flash and power with ball in hand.
“From our Gold side, we are really playing all-around great play,” Nicholas explained. “But MVPs on the day for that side were Hannah Gauthreaux – her speed and step is dangerous – and McKenzie Hawkins, who is constantly setting up her teammates. The team is really starting to grow with their knowledge of the game, and starting to think at a higher level and have fluid conversation on the strategy of the game.”
With the nationals’ berth in hand, the pressure has eased on the 7s program, which will use the Atlanta 7s to experiment with lineups. The Lions then switch back to 15s for the St. Louis Ruggerfest, keeping an eye on the DI Elite playoffs approaching on April 23-24.
The field at NOVA 7s is also balancing the 15s post-season. NOVA 7s champion James Madison won the DI Mason Dixon North and will be advancing to the conference semifinals the first weekend in April. Saturday’s stakes were higher for UVA, which played a 15s challenge match against Temple Saturday before attempting to qualify for 7s nationals with the same cast. James Madison beat UVA 28-19 in the NOVA 7s final and has locked up its place at the 7s championship.
“We had great synergy between the leadership of the experienced players and the athleticism of the younger players,” James Madison coach Roshna Wunderlich reported after winning NOVA 7s. “The team improved every game and every player made a substantial contribution to the team success.
“The success really did result from excellent performances by a number of players,” the coach continued, “but it would be impossible not to mention our freshman center, Mia VanderToorn, who played her first 7s tournament and scored nine tries and was awarded tournament MVP.”
Meg Rich, Tara Jobin and Kayla Cook had hat tricks on the day; Steph Goetz and Frankie Genoese scored two apiece; and Caoimhe O’Sullivan and Olivia Saacke added a try each.
NOVA 7s coordinator Dana Creager is submitting an at-large bid to USA Rugby on UVA’s behalf. UNC, which lost the fourth-place match 22-7 to Virginia Tech, doesn’t have any more 7s fixtures listed on its schedule, but has its last 15s regular-season game against UVA this weekend and the conference semifinals the following weekend.