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Varsity 7s MVP: Bulou Mataitoga

  • 05 Apr 2016
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Mataitoga, standing, third from left. /// Photo courtesy AIC Women’s Rugby

 

With the first NCAA Varsity 7s series tournament, there was also the first MVP named: Bulou Mataitoga. The sophomore helped American International College to a runner-up finish at the Quinnipiac 7s, falling three points short to the host in the final. Despite the loss, the coaches had been wooed by Mataitoga’s overall performance and voted her as MVP of the tournament.

 

“The first thing that caught people’s attention was the way she competes for the ball in the air,” AIC coach Dimitri Efthimiou said. “She can receive a lot of restarts, and the jump-offs got people looking at her. Her ability to make tackles from the sweeper position was also a big factor, and then her offloading ability in contact. She’s a really exciting player to watch. She does have a step and it comes out every now and then. She doesn’t try to run through people as part of her game. People started to watch her more and saw the rest of her skill set.”

 

Sophomore Mataitoga came to AIC in fall 2015 as a transfer student. Berkeley All Blues’ Emily Malkin, a good friend and former player of Efthimiou’s, had recommended a look at her young teammate. Efthimiou tuned into the club 7s national championship Webstream and was convinced that a call was warranted.

 

“She’s an easy kid to coach,” Efthimiou said. “She has so much potential and talent, and I’m doing my best to push her through to trials and have other people take a closer look at her.”

 

Mataitoga flew under the radar during the fall 15s season, as the AIC rookie was recovering from ankle surgery. She was effective from fullback and center, but wasn’t playing at 100%. Now she’s starting to go full tilt.

 

“She is extremely strong in contact and always goes forward, but her strongest ability is open-field tackling,” the coach described attributes that make Mataitoga a great sweeper/fullback. “Her offloading is impressive and we’re working on her decision-making. But if she has to step someone and get around the corner, she can. She runs good lines and her rugby IQ is up there. We’re just working on some mechanics, like passing, which can be off sometimes.”

 

AIC has rallied around 7s and has an LVI 7s title – one won over Lindenwood in another tight contest – in its spring trophy case already. The competitiveness of the Quinnipiac 7s final was one to emulate, and AIC continues to refine its game around athletes like Mataitoga.

 

“That’s why the conference did this – to watch those games and have our kids experience them,” Efthimiou reflected on the 17-14 loss to Quinnipiac. “We had the lead with 40 seconds on the clock, a pass went over our wing’s head and the defense picked it up and scored. Quinnipiac applied a lot of pressure on us defensively, and that was part of the reason why the handling errors occurred. But other than that, you have to finish when you’re up and we’re working on not making those mistakes.”

 

AIC resumes the NCAA Varsity 7s series this weekend at Brown, which makes its first appearance and replaces Harvard (competing in the Atlanta 7s Festival). The third and fourth legs occur at West Chester and Bowdoin, and standings points will seed the teams at the championship at Army West Point on April 30.

 

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