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Sixteen of the best women’s 7s clubs gather this weekend in Minneapolis, Minn. for the 2017 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Men's Club 7s National Championship. The women’s division boasts a talented and deep field, but there is an added wrinkle this season. The event coincides with the Women’s World Cup and a number of players who had a big impact at Club 7s are away in Ireland for this go around.
Reigning National Champions, Scion Rugby, spearhead this group. Scion, however, will be without standouts Samantha Pankey, Kimberly Rozier, and Abby Gustalis, who are competing in Ireland with the national team. Scion is deep though, and still come into the tournament as the number one overall seed.
Life West will join them in this group after qualifying in the Pacific Northwest. The Gladiatrix will also be without two of their stars, Caitie Benson and Jordan Gray, who are also abroad. After missing out last year, Life West returns to the fray to improve on their fifth place finish in 2015.
The Glendale Merlins, the #1 seed from the Frontier, and the Tempe Ninjas, the Pacific South #2, round out the group.
New York Rugby Club (Atlantic North #1), Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic #3), the Chicago Lions (Midwest #1), and Austin Valkyries (Red River #2) make up Pool B. Together, the teams have 15 National Championship appearances with the Chicago Lions having the best finish of the group with a fifth place result in 2014. The Austin side is the only returning squad from last year’s championship.
American Rugby Pro Training Center (ARPTC) leads this group as the Red River #1 seed and #3 overall. ARPTC finished third last season, narrowly losing to Scion in the semifinals. The Arkansas-based training center will be without superstar Jess Wooden, but the team has plenty of depth and will be looking for a second title in three years.
The San Diego Surfers (Pacific South #1) have had a strong history of success at Club 7s, winning in 2012 and 2014. The Surfers went 3-0 in pool play last year, but fell in the quarterfinals to Oregon Sports Union.
Two other Women’s Premier League teams, the Atlanta Harlequins (South #2) and Beantown (Atlantic North #2) make up the group.
Pool D features two newcomers to the tournament. Atavus (Pacific North #1) makes its first appearance at the tournament, but the roster is made up of a number of former Seattle Saracens players. Minneapolis Rugby (Midwest #2) will not have to travel very far for its first postseason appearance and will come in as the 13th seed.
The most experienced team in the pool and the tournament for that matter is Northern Virginia (Mid-Atlantic #2). NOVA is making its seventh appearance, tied for most with the San Diego Surfers.
Finally, the Orlando Rugby Club (South #1) will looking to build on an 11th place finish from last season.