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Atlantis' Ellie Kildunne on attack. Evan Lappen Photo.

Seeding and playoff matchups are subject to change based on official results.

Twelve teams in the Girls High School Elites Division at the 2017 Las Vegas Invitational at Heritage Park in Henderson, Nev. was dwindled down to eight playoff spots at the end of Thursday. Atlantis, Tahi Kaka, and Atavas led each of their pools to 3-0 records and took the top three seeds in the Cup Quarterfinals. BCEY, the Utah Cannibals, South Bay, Sydney City, and Utah Acedemy rounded out the last five spots in order for the quarterfinals.

On Friday morning, #1 Atlantis will play #8 Utah Academy, #2 Tahi Kaka faces #7 Sydney City, #3 Atavus draws #6 South Bay, and #4 BCEY plays #5 Utah Cannibals.

Rugby Today spoke with Atavas head coach Michaela Staniford after the third and final game against the Utah Cannibals. Atavas came back to beat Utah, 19-10, with three second half tries by Brianna Vasquez, Lily Durben, and McKenna Strong.

We were down one try to nothing at the halftime break,” Staniford said. “We then scored early on and conceded a couple more. We came back to scored two in the row to show an immense amount of character from girls who only been together since two days ago.”

Describing the day, Staniford indicated, “The first game [vs Sydney City] was a bit ropey, loads to improve upon. Second game [against Cobra Rugby], we built and learnt a lot. This game [vs Utah Cannibals], we built again, performance was better, but we have so much more to improve on. We have no illusion that we are near the finished article, but it was a much-improved performance from game one to game three.”

In order to advance and win the tournament crown, Staniford said the keys are “getting depth and width, playing to space, defensively linking, and not getting too stir crazy or complicated. We’ve got better every game and we need to continue to improve with those things.”

Like Atavus, Atlantic enjoyed a successful day entering the Cup Quarterfinals as the #3 seed. “It was a great first day for us,” head coach Kevin Corley said. We got to really work on our defense a lot. We played a lot of bigger teams so we got to work on our tackling. We got to work on our structure of attack. We started playing single individual players and by the end, we were able to play more as a team and use our teammates strengths to help us score and improve throughout the day.”

Brits Ellie Kildunne and Ella Wrywas made their mark on the squad and their presence is heavily felt on the pitch. Alex DiMarco and Emily Henrich have been instrumental to the team’s success and reserves Megan Bird, Allie Ramage, and Alex Pipkin breathe life into the team off the bench.

In order to get the semifinals and eventually the final, Corley said that his team has tobuckle down on offense. There were too many times we let into contact when we shouldn’t have. We had an overload out wide, but because the players thought they could do the one-on-one battle, we had to from a ruck or get flustered. We need to learn to avoid contact when it’s unnecessary to take it.  We need to try to be more structured offensively instead of relying on one or two people and work the system from sideline to sideline.”

TEAMWINLOSSTIEPOINT DIFFERENTIAL
POOL A
Atavas300+31
Utah Cannibals210-31
Sydney City120-13
Cobra Rugby030-75
POOL B
Atlantis300+105
BCEY210+52
Play Rugby USA120-17
Glendale030-140
POOL C
Tahi Kaka300+73
South Bay210-5
USA Panthers120-45
Utah Academy030-23