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NEC7C Bigger & Better in 2020

  • 24 Feb 2020

The New England Collegiate 7s Circuit (NEC7C) is a structured, multi-state competition that continues to improve its offerings and attract programs looking a well organized and flexible series. The NEC7C is two weeks into its third season and will provide members ample playing opportunities that will ready teams for 7s nationals, should that be the goal.

RELATED: NEC7C Schedule, Results & Standings

“There’s a lot of good 7s rugby happening here in New England/Northeast, and I’m really proud of all the coaches, players, and refs who have embraced it,” NEC7C commissioner Chip Auscavitch enthused. “I think 7s has really helped change the pace in our region, and I’ve heard anecdotally that it’s helped teams with player recruitment and retention, and the skills developed in 7s have translated over to the 15s game as well.”

The NEC7C expanded from 19 to 25 teams this season, with 18 of last year’s 19 teams returning. Hartford (DII New England Wide), Salve Regina (NSCRO Colonial Coast), Wellesley (Tier 3 New England Wide), Westfield (Tier 2 New England Wide) and U.S. Coast Guard Academy (DII New England Wide) are all new members. The competition added its third DI team in UMass as well as its first NCAA varsity program in American International College (AIC).

“We dabbled in the varsity waters last year with Bowdoin competing in a single tournament, and they’ll be back to compete in a one-off tournament again this year, but AIC is our first official full member,” Auscavitch noted.

The series has expanded from 15 to 19 tournaments this year, and eight non-member schools have filled in some vacancies at various events. That flexibility introduces the NEC7C’s first Tri-State conference team in Fairfield University. Last year also saw two tournaments cancelled due to weather, so Bryant is hosting three indoor competitions to mitigate those circumstances early in the season.

The structure of the tournaments has altered this year, and teams will funnel into Open, Tier 1 & 2, and Tier 2 & 3 brackets to increase competitiveness. Two formats are being explored this spring: a six-team round robin and 10-team format with two pools of five.

“In the past we split six-team tourneys into two pools of three, and then had an awkward playoff format in order to get everyone at least four games,” Auscavitch explained the six-team round robin format. “By using a round robin format, which fits well within a season-long competition, everyone will play five games against the other five opponents. These will be restricted to Friday nights though.”

All Saturday and Sunday tournaments are now 8- or 10-team tournaments, and thus far, the lineups are looking well booked. Of the 19 tournaments, only three have one more vacancy to fill.

“One of the issues in prior years was the quality and quantity of game balls at each tourney,” Auscavitch broached upgrades. “This year we worked with Paladin out in California to custom make us NEC7C-branded game balls. Each tournament will have three brand new game balls to use and we’re letting hosts keep them in order to provide additional incentive to host tournaments.”

Auscavitch has cultivated a deeper pool of independent refs who will staff these events, and each will be kitted in NEC7C-branded jerseys. And watch for more updates via the league’s new Instagram account, which Endicott head coach Carly Baker will manage.

“We’ll continue to name All-Conference teams this year in order to reward, identify, and promote players who have the ability to play at higher levels, and several have done just that,” Auscavitch referenced NEC7C players on various all-star, ODA and/or WPL teams.

The NEC7C does name a champion but the competition itself does not serve as an automatic qualifier for the USA Rugby or NSCRO national 7s championships. That said, NEC7C members have earned at-large berth to 7s nationals, and have used their voluminous spring 7s schedule to aid their applications.

“We’re hopeful that many of our teams will once again be noticed and invited to national competitions sponsored by both USA Rugby and NSCRO,” Auscavitch added. “We saw Bryant win [USA Rugby] DII last year, and both Northeastern and Endicott had success in their respective competitions. We also saw the Colonial Coast All-Star team take home the NSCRO All-Star title earlier this year.

“While other regions are ahead of the game in youth and high school development when it comes to rugby, New England is ahead of the curve when it comes to 7s,” Auscavitch concluded. “We look forward to keeping the 7s momentum going via the NEC7C competition and continuing to improve and tweak things each year to keep it exciting and competitive for all involved.”

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