Montana State’s Dallas Flager was one prospect discovered at the championships. /// Photo courtesy Biiancaa Yeoh Photography
Even though the scouting process is a year-round job, these two weekends are Brandon Sparks’ big events in terms of seeing players. The Women’s Collegiate All American (WCAA) 7s coach took in the USA Rugby DI and DII College 7s Championships last weekend and heads to Chester, Pa., for the CRC 7s on Friday.
The WCAA 7s team debuted in – and won – last summer’s Elite City 7s. Sparks coached that squad on an interim basis and was officially named head coach in early 2016. The program is young, but the WCAA 7s brand is a well known entity. Coaches continue to send film on promising players, and Sparks is on the ground at as many 7s tournaments as possible. But the college 7s championships and CRCs are two highlights on Sparks’ calendar.
“When you’re looking for 7s players, you’re looking for athleticism, and there were definitely some athletes there,” Sparks reflected on last weekend’s championships. “It was exciting to be there because you see teams that you don’t normally get a look at – Montana State, Ithaca and a few others.”
Sparks was particularly impressed with a pair of Bobcats – Maria Michelotti and Dallas Flager – who boasted good size, speed and skill. The Montana State players distinguished themselves against a field replete with age grade and Eagle pool players. Those who watched Tess Feury (Penn State), Nate Serevi (Central Washington), Elizabeth Cairns (Penn State) or Nicole Strasko (Life) in Cary, N.C., might also view the collegians in Eagles jerseys this summer. Even more players on the 7s pitch have been tabbed for All American selection in the coming months: Ashlee Bryge (Davenport), Gabby Cantorna (Penn State), McKenzie Hawkins (Lindenwood), Leah Ingold (Central Washington), Danielle Ordway (Davenport), Annakaren Pedraza (Lindenwood), Carly Waters (Penn State), Jenny Johnson (Central Washington), Darian Lovelace (Life), Yana Manoa (Central Washington), Hunter Moreland (Davenport) and Megan Rom (Life).
Of the aforementioned, three players – Byrge, Serevi and Strasko – competed on the 2015 WCAA 7s team that won the Elite City 7s.
“Across the board, there was more 7s being played, actual 7s structure,” Sparks said of the level play. “There was a distinction between DI and DII, but that was more about DI having professional 7s coaches who have time to dedicate to it. Athletically, there wasn’t a big difference, but I think there was a content gap. Although Davenport is at a completely different level in DII and could challenge in DI.”
Sparks returned to Michigan for a 36-hour breather before heading back to the east coast and the CRC 7s. He’s excited to see a nearly new cast of teams (5 of 16 competed last weekend) and will sort out invites to the National All Star Competition (NASC) after the event. The WCAA 7s summer schedule has not been finalized, but there will be 7s-specific assemblies at NASC.
For more information on the CRCs, go to www.usasevenscrc.com.