For New York, the previous two USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships have ended with mixed results. The team has finished fifth with consecutive 5-1 performances, but those two losses have been single-digit decisions in the Cup quarterfinals. New York 7s head coach Ryszard Chadwick described the team’s desire to finish in a higher position, and that has fueled a different approach to this year’s preparation, but that it’s not overwhelming the goal of growth.
At 2017 nationals, Scion outscored New York two tries to one in the Cup quarterfinals, and then at the same stage in 2018, the team dropped a two-point heartbreaker to ARPTC on the last play of the game.
“At the time, when you lose and you know you have the ability to go through and be more successful, it’s tough,” but the experience builds character, Chadwick said. “There’s a hunger to be more successful but I don’t think there’s a sour taste anymore because everyone knows 7s is a difficult game and our [local] competition is not as strong as it could be [in preparation]. … But even more so, there’s a hunger for growth and development than what the ultimate prize is.”
There’s been turnover in the team; in fact, only Shamira Robles and Kristen Siano remain from Chadwick’s first 7s squad in 2017. Captain Misha Green, Mexico 7s international Jenn Salomon and 15s Eagle Sarah Levy (who is questionable after an injury sustained at last weekend’s Women’s All-Star Week) are also key returners who drive the standard and structure of play, as well as the behavioral standards.
“The program has opened up to a lot more new people and it’s allowed our second side to be quite competitive,” Chadwick previewed the introduction of new faces. “It’s a great balance. The leaders are doing an excellent job of leading, and everyone else is doing a good job reaching the standards they’re demanding.”
Daisy Titus is making the six-hour round trip from Albany to work into the Atlantic North champion squad and has been rewarded with a spot to Kansas City. The team has also welcomed Abigael Yotts, who relocated from Boston and has been a huge impact player this season.
“Matilda Kocaj just came back from the [Collegiate] All-Americans in Colorado and has been someone who really impressed this year,” Chadwick said of the 20-year-old who started at wing and moved to hooker. “Gianna Solomon from Penn State was also with the All-Americans in Colorado and has played for the Northeast [Academy] in the New York 7s on our Alpha Cub side. She has come on leaps and bounds these last six weeks.”
Siobhan Coady just graduated from Molloy College, a varsity program in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association, and is heading to nationals, as is ice hockey crossover Sophia Agostinelli of New Haven, Conn.
“Tiyanna Hooker has been a really nice addition,” Chadwick said of the youngest member of the nationals-bound squad. “I’ve coached her at the High School All-American level. She graduated high school this year and is going to Lindenwood in the fall. She’s been driving from Pennsylvania to New York to train with us and has been on the first side since day one. She’s been absolutely brilliant, and it’s been a great learning opportunity to play with some of these players who are much more experienced and older than her. It’s developed her game massively. She’s not able to run through everyone like she does at the high school level so she’s had to learn a few more tricks.”
Chadwick indicated that selections for each tournament, nationals included, have been difficult, and the summer has been spent finding the right recipe for the style of 7s the team wants to play. New York wanted to retain its attacking style – and did so by scoring more than 1,000 points before nationals for the third-straight season – but to go about it differently.
“We focused more in the contact and defensive areas of the game,” Chadwick explained. “A big reason we shifted was because we lost the last two [national] quarterfinals [by slim margins] and wanted to change the mindset around what you can do against harder competition when it starts getting tough. How can we use our defense to get us those opportunities?”
With the exception of Boston, the Atlantic North competition didn’t provide much resistance to replicate the pressure found at nationals. So the onus turned inward, and the staff and leadership have worked hard to diversify training sessions and have teammates challenge each other. The test begins on Saturday, when New York lines up against Phoenix (South #2), D.C. Furies (Mid-Atlantic #3) and Berkeley (Pacific North #1) during pool play. If New York finishes in the top two of its pool, then it’s onto the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.
“We’ve been quite quiet this year in terms of what we’re doing and how we’re going about it,” Chadwick concluded. “It’s been a nice season and there’s a good culture within the club, which is nice to coach in. Everyone representing the first side at nationals really gets on with each and there’s a great relationship between the experienced and brand new players.”
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NEW YORK 7s
1. Abigael Yotts
2. Shamira Robles
3. Siobhan Coady
4. Sophia Agostinelli
5. Tiyanna Hooker
6. Gianna Solomon
7. Matilda Kocaj
8. Misha Green
9. Kristen Siano
10. Daisy Titus
11. Sarah Levy
12. Jenn Salomon
13. Jani Boal