2019 College 7s Preview

Strap in for an electrifying weekend of college rugby!

The largest ever USA Rugby College 7s National Championship tournament is set to take place this weekend, May 24-26, with 63 teams across six divisions descending upon Tucson, AZ with one goal in mind, becoming national champions. Men’s play will kickoff at 10am PDT Friday and conclude on Saturday night. Women’s play will kickoff on Saturday at 8am PDT and finish on Sunday.


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Men’s D1A:

For the first time D1A will declare a National Champion for sevens. The favorite entering the weekend will be Lindenwood, after they won the previous two D1 championships. They will face stiff opposition from the likes of Arizona, who will be playing in their own backyard; and Notre Dame College and Grand Canyon, both esteem 7s programs that have produced players on the men’s national team. Outside of those programs, Central Washington is coming off the back one of their best fifteens seasons in recent memory and have shown tremendous growth. They will be looking to continue their growth with a strong showing over the weekend. From the Red River, Arkansas is a team to watch. The Razorbacks won their third consecutive Red River Sevens title this Spring and with Senior Alex Rees at the helm, they will be a handful for any team they come up against.

 

Women’s Elite:

2019 will be the first time an elite division has been created for the women’s competition. Previously, the best teams had competed in “Women’s Division I”. The elite division will be comprised of teams from Women’s D1 Elite and NIRA. Returning to the fray are last year’s champion, Lindenwood. The Lions will be a tough side to handle with a side stacked with talent, the likes of Caring De Freitas, Teresa Bueso Gomez, McKenzie Hawkins and Annakaren Pedraza carrying their torch, it’s going to be a nightmare for teams to slow down. Their Pool B opponents, Dartmouth, will look drastically improved from last year. Led by Freshman, Sorensen award winner, Emily Henrich Dartmouth are coming off their first NIRA fifteens title and will be hoping they can snare the double.  In Pool A Life University will be the favorites to finish on top. With plenty of talent their most exciting prospect may be Susan Adegoke who burst onto the scene during their D1 Elite playoff run and undoubtedly leave countless defenders in her wake.

 

Men’s D1AA:

The Men’s D1AA competition is a wide open race. With 12 teams participating and all 12 of them holding a strong resume behind them. Two teams that are expecting big things from the weekend are St. Joseph’s University and Mary Washington. Both teams come with highly skilled players and have explosive pace throughout their lineups. This will be Mary Washington’s final affiliation with D1AA before taking the next step up to D1A in the fall, they will be looking to go out with a bang. St. Joseph’s will be led by their outstanding flyhalf, Noah Niumataiwalu. Possessing a lethal step, strong ball handling and an explosive first step, expect plenty of highlights to come from him. A team that may be flying under the radar for most of the year is Stanford. The Cardinals are a team filled with senior talent and under the tutelage of Josh Sutcliffe have been impressive throughout their campaign. It won’t be easy getting out of their pool, but if they do expect a big run from the Palo Alto men.

 

Women’s D1:

2018 was a banner year for Air Force and they will be looking to produce similar results this year too. After winning the Women’s Open National Championship and the Women’s D1 Fall Championship, Air Force are firm favorites as they enter the weekend. However, it won’t be easy for them, a competitive field built up with teams like Virginia Tech and Princeton, who will challenge Air Force every step of the way. Virginia Tech enjoyed a successful spring, making it to the Spring Championship; and while they lost that match they’ll be keen to make sure they don’t walk away empty handed on Sunday. Princeton, have been consistently one of the best sevens programs in the country and have been knocking on the door for a few years now, this could be the year they put it all together.


 

Men’s D2:

The previous two Men’s D2 national champions, UNC Charlotte and UW Whitewater, respectively, return to the pitch in the hopes of repeating prior feats. While they will undoubtedly be two of the favorites to walk away with the title on the weekend, there is plenty of competition within the division. Two of the toughest obstacles the previous champions will face are East Carolina and Iowa Central Community College. Iowa Central has carved up the sevens scene in previous years. This year they are in possession of electrifying speed and look set to continue terrorizing their opponents. East Carolina comes in as a surprise package. They entered their Southern Rugby Conference qualifying tournament as the sixth seed, out of eight. Despite the low seeding ECU took the tournament by storm and proved they are one of the best programs in the country. They will be hoping to prove their performance back in April wasn’t a fluke, but a sign of things to come.


 

Women’s D2:  

Fresno State, less than a month removed from tasting victory in the Spring Championships, will be hoping they complete the double and make 2019 a year to remember for the program. They’ve characterized their play this year, in fifteens, with outstanding expansive systems and now as they enter the sevens season it should be a seamless transition. They won’t have free reign over the competition, as they will face difficult challenges from the likes of Bloomsburg and Babson college. Bloomsburg proved to be a handful during last year’s championships. While it did not always go their way, they will hope to build upon last year’s momentum. Babson, similarly to Fresno, enjoyed a successful season during the Spring. While it did not end in the same euphoria as Fresno State’s did, they will be hungry to have something to show for their tremendous year.