ATAVUS 7s Tournament ends with AIG WCAAs in title match

GLENDALE, Colo. - The AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Sevens team finished runner-up at the inaugural ATAVUS Elite Women's 7s Tournament at Infinity Park over the weekend, losing only to 2016 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Champion Scion Rugby Academy.

Brandon Sparks' side competed in its second-ever rugby sevens tournament Aug. 19-20 with a squad of 12 representing more than 15 collegiate institutions and domestic clubs. Seattle Saracens' Kelsi Stockert captained the team and opened the event with a hat trick of tries against one of four ATAVUS teams made up of attendees of the ATAVUS Women's Performing 7s Resident Camp held during the week.

Stockert, recently named to the Club 7s Dream Team, was one of five WCAA try-scorers in the 43-0 defeat of ATAVUS Red, with Pennsylvania State University's Tess Feury adding three successful conversion kicks to her one try. Ashlee Byrge of Davenport University also accounted for seven points as Sparks' team "had the chance to explore the system and patterns" in its opener, the head coach said.

"Our goal was to improve by 10 percent each training session and game," Stockert said. "We wanted constant progress, because there's no greater feeling than getting better.

"The drive to learn and how passionate our team was was very similar to what I've experienced with the senior sides."

Capped on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series with the Women's Eagles Sevens, Dana Meschisi brought international flair to the ATAVUS Blue team, the WCAAs' second opponent at Infinity Park. College 7s National Champion Christina Swift out of Life University also raised the level of ATAVUS Blue, contributing to the team giving the WCAAs their most hard-earned win of the weekend, 22-10.

Life's Kaitlyn Broughton continued her try-scoring streak in the Centennial State in the victory following the Club 7s weekend she spent with Old Blue of New York, while Bulou Mataitoga represented American International College and Berkeley All Blues with two tries. The makeup of the squad afforded Sparks options in roster rotation from game to game, and all 12 players complemented the team makeup to ensure a constant standard of play.

"We are all still learning and aspiring to be on the USA senior sides," Stockert said. "We had experience throughout our lineup with players like KB (Broughton), Bulou, and Tess; all hard workers with great field vision and the steps and power to be successful.

"But we also had athletes who were running amazing lines without actually knowing it," Stockert said in reference to an incident in training with Montana State University's Maria Michelotti. "To think that she's been playing for a year and is already playing at such a high level with great skills that she doesn't quite know she possesses. Imagine what some experience and training will do."

Against Scion, the WCAAs were outmatched in terms of experience and size, and the Club 7s National Champion's continuity built across two weekends of play won out as the National Development Academy handed the WCAAs their first loss of the tournament, 27-5. Mataitoga scored the team's lone try in the final match of the day.

Lindenwood University's Davon Thomas opened her scoring account on the second day of competition against ATAVUS Black, which had collegiate teammate Hannah Gauthreaux in its ranks. Thomas' brace and first tries for Macie Helgenberger of Colorado State University, McKenzie Koval of Michigan State University, and Mount St. Mary's University's Nicole Ciccarelli saw the WCAAs shut out the opposition, 43-0.

Sparks highlighted the play of Feury and Thomas in Saturday's second match against ATAVUS Orange as the two combined "in the second layer to link up and set up each other's tries," he said. The two accounted for two tries apiece in the 31-7 victory, setting up a rematch with Scion for the Tournament title.

For the second consecutive weekend, Scion could not be beaten. Michelotti dotted down for the WCAAs in the 19-5 loss to become the 12th player on the squad to score a try on the weekend, an impressive feat for any rugby sevens side throughout a competition.

"I was really impressed with how our team played on the second day against Scion," Stockert said. "We knew what was ahead of us and didn't get intimidated. We contained them much better and we had much more possession. We were putting awesome phases together and playing some pretty rugby."

"Massive improvement from day one," Sparks said of the teams' second meeting in as many days. "Players were able to win back some kickoffs and put together phases. Again, their inexperience was their undoing against Scion but the lessons learned will make them better players in the long run."

AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Sevens | ATAVUS Elite Women's 7s Tournament
Kaitlyn Broughton - Life University / Old Blue of New York
Stephanie Browne - Orlando
Ashlee Byrge - Davenport University
Nicole Ciccarelli - Mount St. Mary's University
Tess Feury - Pennsylvania State University
Macie Helgenberger - Colorado State University / Glendale Raptors
McKenzie Koval - Michigan State / Grand Rapids Gazelles
Bulou Mataitoga - American International College / Berkeley All Blues
Maria Michelotti - Montana State University
Alena Olsen - Michigan / Legacy Rugby Academy 7s
Kelsi Stockert (C) - Seattle Saracens
Davon Thomas - Lindenwood University

AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Sevens | Coaching Staff
Brandon Sparks - Head Coach
Amie Kern - Physiotherapist
Alice Plant - Team Leader / Manager