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NOVA Back in Championship Tempo

  • 27 Jul 2019

NOVA played 15s from September to June, and capped the season with its first DI club national championship. That left little time for the transition to 7s, but NOVA regrouped, adjusted to the intensity of the summer, and finished second in the Mid-Atlantic. NOVA will join Scion (#1) and the D.C. Furies (#3) at club 7s nationals in Kansas City, Mo., on Aug. 10-11.

“We at NOVA pride ourselves on being a talented, well-known club in both 15s and 7s but the overlap between the two programs is not as big as you might think,” explained NOVA scrumhalf Bri Kim, who also serves as the Mid-Atlantic 7s committee.

Kim noted that a decent amount of 15s players take time off in the summer but this year’s longer season saw burnout run higher. That national exposure, however, increased recruitment and supplemented the already steady flow of collegians who typically boot up with NOVA while home for the summer. Consequently, NOVA was able to field three sides at tournaments this season.

Those 15s players who did commit to the 7s season had approximately a week and half to recoup, but they brought a robust wave of confidence with them upon their return.

“Having to play three [15s] playoff weekends against solid competition only increased our exposure to high-pressure situations where everything’s on the line, that do-or-die feeling while playing with composure – something that is all too common in 7s games,” Kim considered any changes in the squad. “I think that was the biggest lesson/new knowledge we took away from 15s: being more comfortable in those uncomfortable spots and learning how to adjust our game plan and execute.”

Nancy Fitz and Dana Creager are the NOVA 7s head and assistant coaches, respectively, and they curated an organized, positive and challenging environment for those coming off the 15s run, college kids and rugby newcomers. The duo receives good support from the veterans – Kim, Ariel Johnson, Emily Blease – while younger players like Joy Jefferson have developed more prominent voices this year.

“The college kids are fun to play with because they all have raw, lethal strengths that make our system unique,” Kim highlighted UVA’s Emma Auld, West Chester’s Juah Toe and Mount St. Mary’s Ubaida Ahmed.

“I’ve been super impressed with another rookie to the team, Emily Wessel,” Kim added. “She’s brought great vision and playmaking to the squad and I can’t wait to see what else she does at nationals.”

The young group was able to come together through the Mid-Atlantic’s three qualifiers and other non-series tournaments, like Cape Fear. The competitive region’s three representatives were determined on series standings – instead of relying on the results of a single championship – which were tight heading into the final stop. Scion was already guaranteed a spot given its two first-place finishes in Baltimore and Wilmington, Del. NOVA (34 pts.) hosted the final tournament and sat in between D.C. Furies (36) and Philadelphia (32) in standings.

NOVA advanced to the final against Scion and finished second overall, thus securing a berth to Kansas City. The Furies shut out Philly in the third place match and is also heading to the Midwest in August.

“Plain and simple, our goal is to finish higher than we did last year,” Kim confirmed NOVA’s goals at nationals. “We were disappointed with our finish in NYC and felt strongly that our performance didn’t accurately reflect the talent of the team. I feel good about the momentum we have going into Kansas City, though.”

NOVA is spending the final two weeks focusing on execution and reiterating the patterns and systems that got the team to nationals in the first place.

“Lastly, we want to keep representing our club well,” Kim ended. “I believe that NOVA and Berkeley are the only two clubs who have qualified for and attended every single nationals the last 10 years, including the two unofficial ones in 2009 and 2010 before USA Rugby took over. We’re proud to be a part of this legacy.”

USA Rugby has not released pools for nationals yet, but those groupings should be finalized after Saturday’s Pacific North championship.

NOVA #Club7s

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