AIG WCAA Sevens, New York City claim Elite City Sevens titles
"I think it’s important players outside of this . . . understand this isn't a rare occasion."
MALVERN, Pa. - The AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Sevens completed their first tournament Sunday on a successful note, winning the Elite City Sevens Cup with a second defeat of American Rugby Pro Training Center in as many days.
Two tries from Nia Williams and seven points by Meya Bizer highlighted the 17-10 Cup Final victory, but the championship was won with a team effort from 12 of the nation's best young athletes.
Coach by Brandon Sparks, the WCAAs were not gifted an easy path to the Cup Final after securing the top seed in the four-team women's competition on day one. The age-grade national team kicked off the second day at Greater Chester Valley Sports Association bright and early at 8 a.m. ET against fourth-ranked Northeast Academy.
While Sparks discussed not needing to emphasize earning wins at Elite City Sevens - after the WCAAs defeated Northeast Academy, Armed Forces, and the team from Little Rock, Ark., Saturday - the young women had their own expectations for Sunday.
"They decided they wanted a 'win' focus," the coach said. "They had their eyes set to play Little Rock again. When you get athletes like that together they always want to play the best.
"[Saturday], when we played Northeast, the girls were bad at transitions and that cost us. That was something they identified last night, and they came out and committed to it. The transition ball's what helped us get the space that we needed and start our attack in the right way."
The 24-12 defeat of Northeast Academy in the morning secured the longest break of the day for the WCAAs, who stayed out of the heat and were ready for the rematch with the Club 7s National Champion.
The Cup Final would not have been out of place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, with both teams in it until the final whistle. The WCAAs responded to a second-half Little Rock try with a run from Williams in the dying minutes.
The All-Americans saw out the win with grade-A defense, stopping one try-scoring opportunity stemming from a line break.
"Shutouts in sevens are rare," Sparks said. "You're going to give up tries. If we give up 10 points in a game, that's a great game, defensively. They did all the little things that we'd been asking them to do."
The WCAAs represented 11 institutions, but came together as a championship team in the span of a week under Sparks' tutelage.
"Every high performance athlete in the USA pathway - men or women - have certain characteristics," the University of Michigan head coach said. "Players that will work an entire day and then go home and do a two-hour sprint workout: those are the players that were here representing the Collegiate All-Americans.
"All of these kids are students. This is a hobby to them. It shows with the work they're willing to put in to chase the Olympic dream, or just a rugby dream in general."
The WCAAs' success comes on the heels of wins by the AIG Women's Junior All-Americans and Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS. The WJAAs defeated their Canada counterparts twice in the Under-20 Can-Am Series powered by ATAVUS, while the GHSAAs, in their first action in the 15s code, defeated BC Rugby U18 Women's twice north of the border.
"The junior and high school teams have the [social media] hashtag 'Set The Standard,'" Sparks said. "Now we're going to have 'Raise The Standard.'
"I think it's important players outside of this - people who watched on the stream, people who attended National All-Star Competitions - understand this isn't a rare occasion. This is what we're working towards from the senior level down through the age-grade.
"While they're excited to win this, what they're more excited for is to watch the process, to watch the next generation of players come through and do what they're doing - but do it better."
Armed Forces beat San Diego in the Cup Semifinal Sunday, ending the undefeated team's run to a second consecutive Elite City Sevens Cup Final. In the other Semifinal matchup, New York City left no doubt with a 33-7 defeat of Philadelphia.
New York City, comprised of several players from Northeast Academy, took the first-place honors with a 36-7 win in the Final.
Both finalists featured players in the national team pathway, including Luke Hume and Derek Lipscomb with New York City and Armed Force's Will Holder and Ben Leatigaga, but plenty of players who have yet to travel to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., made impacts with their teams.
The teams constructed by Olympic Development Academies - Ohio (Tiger Rugby), Atlanta (Life ODA), Academy Development (Northeast Academy), and Utah (Rugby Utah) - contested the Bowl Sunday. The newest National Development Academy, Rugby Utah, defeated Ohio in the Bowl Final, 31-7.
Both the WCAAs and New York City were honored during halftime of the Men's Eagles' match against Harlequin F.C. Sunday, a 24-19 victory for the Aviva Premiership side.