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Liu: Cape Fear Was Our Gauge

  • 09 Jul 2019

Scion is leading the Mid-Atlantic 7s series and pushed its development with a trip to Cape Fear 7s against the always competitive Women’s Elite division. This year’s tournament, which is not a national qualifier, was unique in that the top-three teams from the Armed Forces Championship integrated into the knockout rounds. Scion appreciated the intensity and the extra work needed for its third-straight Cape Fear 7s trophy.

“[S]even games in two days against true elite competition was a real test for our girls and a good gauge for how much work we still need to do if we want to win nationals,” Scion director Joanne Liu reflected. “All of the teams there, especially ARPTC and Atlanta, will only continue to get better between now and then, and it will be tough to consistently win against them if we don’t step up our own standards for fitness, skills and mental training. There were some amazing athletes out there and we feel fortunate to have come out on top.”

With Cape Fear being a mid-season tournament, Scion and the rest of the field have had a few runouts to start building chemistry. The Sirens had won the first MAC 7s qualifier – Rites of Spring – and encountered the consistently tough D.C. Furies, Philadelphia and NOVA. Liu recalled highlights like Maggie Olney (D.C.) and Lucy Dawson (Philly), and a pair of new coaches that injected new life into the nationals-vying contenders, and is grateful for the concentration of talent.

In Wilmington, N.C., Scion featured two teams and the top side, Scion Woo, included multi-year veterans – Lauren Rhode, Dana Meschisi, Saskia Morgan, Maggie Myles – who define the Sirens’ brand. There is continuity in the younger class, too, as players like Ally Gallagher and Camille Johnson represented the team at nationals last year.

“We definitely have the fortune of mostly Scion veterans this year and it’s exciting to see them be able to come together and enjoy themselves,” Liu confirmed. “We did have Emma Murphy from the Irish 7s team join us but unfortunately she suffered an injury in the first tournament, which was a huge disappointment for us but we are confident she will come back strong and be able to play with us in future years.”

In addition to recent Dartmouth graduate Johnson, Liu pointed to UNC product Katie Lutton, who missed last summer due to injury, as one to watch.

“They will both play an integral part of the team this summer along with some more young contributors from varsity programs like Caitlin Weigel from Harvard and Milla Anderson and Kat Ramage from Dartmouth.”

All of the Elite teams played each other on day one, and Scion finished 3-0-1, outscoring opponents 112-28. In the shutout against NOVA, Liu noted rising Mount St. Mary University’s Ubaida Ahmed, who was playing well above rising sophomore status. In the shutout win against Ros Chou-coached Atlanta, Liu called Chi Chi Chukwueke, “probably the most underrated player,” and Corinne Heavner a team leader.

Against ARPTC, Scion beat one side 17-7 and tied the other 21-12. Players like Jaz Gray, Summer Harris Jones and Jaynee Taufoou were difference-makers.

On day two, Armed Forces Championship titleholder Army, runner-up Marines and third-place Air Force joined the Women’s Elite division to name a Cape Fear champion. With the seeding, Scion didn’t have to play any of the military branch teams but was connected to their inclusion.

“I thought it was great and was part of suggesting that Cape Fear is a great tournament for them to compete at because it’s an area full of great support for the military, but also a great tournament for them to test themselves against club teams and vice versa as well,” Liu cheered the military teams’ involvement. “I’m a bit disappointed it just didn’t work out for us to play any of the military squads but given my past stint as coach at Naval Academy and Kaitlin Kelly, the Army coach, being a part of our Scion program I tried to keep a close eye on the competition and all the military teams are near and dear to me.”

Of Army, Liu highlighted USA 7s Eagle Kasey McCravey, who ran the offense, and the strong contributions of Lauran Glover and Lolita Galdones, “who is fun to watch,” Liu noted. “I think they would’ve given us a run for our money for sure and they lost a close semi [17-14] to ARPTC 1.”

The coach progressed through each military team, based on final placing: Kate Herren put that Chula Vista residency to good use for the Marines and led the way in pace physicality, while Katie Smith was also noteworthy; Navy’s Tia Blythe and Jamila Reinhardt injected their USA experience and inspired the level of play from youngsters like Liz Pittman.

“The coaching and admin abilities of Lisa [Rosen] and Emily Record make them the most organized team especially when it comes to their player pool and depth since they have consistently played in Vegas or other tourneys together, and it shows on the field,” Liu praised. “I think they suffered some injuries that held them back a bit but as demonstrated by the win by the Air Force Academy in collegiate sevens nationals they’re only going to continue to get better.”

Liu noted Coast Guard’s quality coaching staff in Sean Lindersmith and an athletic pool pof players.

“You could tell their players as an overall were less experienced but they are the team that will benefit the most from opportunities like these because all they really need is more time and experience playing,” the coach concluded.

Scion beat NOVA and ARPTC 2 in the run-up to the final against ARPTC’s top side, which also featured several well knowns like Jess Wooden, Christina Swift and the Taufoou sisters, Jaynee and Hallie. The team beat Air Force 24-14 in the quarterfinals and then Army 17-14 en route to the Sunday final.

The majority of the first half evolved without a score, and then Johnson and Rhode scored tries to put Scion up 12-0. Morgan added a final score, and Rhode kicked a second

conversion, to top off a 19-0 final victory. DETAILS: CAPE FEAR 7S FINAL

“Kiki Morgan and Jade McGrath continued to be great examples on the field of elite athletes and leaders,” Liu thought on standout performances, “and Camille Johnson really exhibited herself as an offensive threat this weekend and continues to build confidence as she transitions from college to elite level play.”

The trophy marked Scion’s third-straight at Cape Fear 7s, a fixture that the Sirens prioritize every year. Now it’s back to the MAC circuit and qualifiers resume this weekend and next in Delaware and Virginia, respectively. These tournament award standings points that will then seed the MAC championship, which determines which teams head to nationals.

“So far it’s a toss-up as to who will take the nationals spots, as all the teams are very good and play a lot of rugby,” Liu looked back toward the MAC competition. “We won the first one but it is always a challenge and with injuries from this past weekend especially there’s no telling what will happen this weekend and next.”

Stay tuned.

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