Women's Rugby Gears Up for First USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championship Appearance

Women's Rugby Gears Up for First USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championship Appearance

USA Rugby College 7s National Championship

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Sat., May 19 – Sun., May 20
Infinity Park (Glendale, Colo.)

 Life University
Sat., May 19 / 10 a.m. (MST)
Harvard trails, 0-2 / L2
L, 17-5 (4/8/16)

Sat., May 19 / 12:40 p.m. (MST)
Harvard trails, 1-10 / L7
L, 43-7(4/28/18)

Sat., May 19 / 6 p.m. (MST)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard women's rugby team will have to go through three current or former national champions in its quest for a national title at the 2018 USA Rugby Sevens National Championship this weekend in Glendale, Colo. The Crimson (16-6) drew 2016 USA Rugby 7s victor, Life University for its opening bout and will go on to face rival, 2016 NIRA 7s champion Army, before meeting reigning USA Rugby 15s Fall champion Davenport on opening day. Harvard competes for the Women's Division I title beginning on Saturday, May 19. Infinity Park will host the top men's and women's collegiate programs for three days, with champions being crowned across four divisions. TheRugbyChannel.tv will broadcast the all matches throughout the competition.

Pool play for the Women's Division I entrants will begin at 9 a.m. local time and is expected to last until 6:20 p.m. The Crimson will begin day one against Life at 10 a.m., before meeting Army at 12:40 p.m. and Davenport at 6 p.m. The top two teams from each pool will compete for the Cup, while the lower two teams will contest for the Bowl. Bowl semifinals are scheduled for 11:40 a.m. on Sunday, May 20, with Cup-semifinals, consolations, and finals to take place thereafter. The following pools have been established: 

Pool A: Central Washington, Dartmouth, Lindenwood, Penn State
Pool B: Harvard, Army, Davenport, Life

Scouting Harvard
The Crimson is 16-6 on the year and most recently earned a third-place finish at the Army West Point All-Academy Sevens Tournament on April 28. Harvard reached the championship match of the four other tournaments it competed in this spring: Crimson 7s, Brown 7s, Brown 7s, and Ivy 7s.

Harvard's offense has proved versatile this season. Five different student-athletes have led the Crimson in scoring in five tournaments. Milan Roberts had 46 points (6 tries, 8 conversions) at Crimson 7s. Delia Hellander netted 42 points (6t, 6c) at Brown 7s. Arianna Romero had eight tries at Ivy 7s, in addition to five at the Polar Bear 7s. Juniors Jenny Kronish and Sarah Lipson, along with Romero, each touched down twice at the Army West Point All-Academy 7s.

Additionally, seven different student-athletes have registered 20 or more points 11 times:
Crimson 7s - Sarah Lipson (7 tries), Hellander (3t, 5c), Roberts (6t, 8c), and Dominique Cantave (4t);
Brown 7s – Hellander (6t, 6c);
Ivy 7s – Romero (8t), Hellander (4t, 7c), Rachel Harkavy (4t), and Susie Clements (10c); and
Polar Bear 7s – Romero (5t), Roberts (4t).

Hellander is the leading scoring for the Crimson. The sophomore from Lebanon, N.J. leads the team in points (134), tries (18), and conversions (22). Romero is second with 85 points from 17 tries and Roberts is third with 80 points from 12 tries and 10 conversions. Cantave also boasts 10 or more tries this spring season, while 10 other student-athletes have touched down at least once.

Defensively, the Crimson has earned six victories by virtue of shutout and limited opposing teams to 10 or fewer points in seven additional contests. Harvard has outscored opponents 555-204 to date. 

Sorenson Award Finalist
Senior captain Maya Learned is among five finalists for the 2018 Sorenson Award. Named after the pioneering USA national team player Maryann Sorenson, the accolade recognizes the best collegiate women's rugby player. Sorenson led the Golden Eagles to a Rugby World Cup title, before moving on to coaching while also serving as a medical doctor. Learned is the only prop among the five finalists and will receive her degree in Integrative Biology when Harvard commencements begin next week. Centers Sui A'au (Central Washington) and McKenzie Hawkins (Lindenwood) are two other finalists that will also be playing at the 2018 USA Rugby College 7s Championship. The remaining finalists, Quinnipiac's Ilona Maher and Brigham Young's Grace Taito, will be absent from this weekend's competition.

Scouting Life U
Life University won this tournament two years ago and reached the finals last season. Life U began its sevens season with a second place finish at the Tropical 7s in late March. There it went 5-0 in pool play, before ultimately falling to University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) in the final, 24-12. The Running Eagles then hosted a tournament where it went 3-0-1, topping the Atlanta Harlequins, 36-5, USA Rugby South Elite, 12-5, and Lindenwood, 21-15, while tying Scion, 12-12. Life U then competed in two spring 15s tournaments.

Including the fall season, the Running Eagles are 19-3 and coming off an appearance in the finals of the 2018 USA Rugby D1 Elite Playoffs. Life U defeated defending national champion and top-seed Penn State, 17-15, before falling to Lindenwood, 34-8, in 15s spring national championship on May 6.

Harvard and Life U have met twice since the Crimson became a varsity program. The Running Eagles claimed both contests, which took place April 7-8, 2016.

Scouting Army
Army's A-side is 22-1 and has won four tournaments this sevens season. The Black Knights last competed at its West Point All-Academy 7s Tournament on April 28 and retained its cup. Army has defeated Harvard four times this season. Twice those contests have been determined by a single try. The Black Knights needed all of the clock against the Crimson in the Polar Bear 7s tournament finale, scoring on the final possession to win, 17-12, and secure an automatic bid to the USA Rugby 7s National Championship.

As a varsity program, Harvard's A-side is 1-10 in the all-time sevens-series with Army. The lone win came as a 25-5 victory at the Quinnipiac 7s on April 2, 2016. The Crimson went 1-0-1 against the Black Knights during the autumn 15s campaign. The two sides battled to a 33-33 draw on Sept. 16, 2017, before Harvard defeated Army, 24-12, in a NIRA Nationals Quarterfinal on Nov. 11.

Scouting Davenport
The Panthers largely competed as a 15s side this spring, having won the USA Rugby 15s Fall Championship. During that stretch Davenport went 10-0 and outscored opponents 835-107. In its transition to sevens play, the Panthers won both the Davenport 7s Tournament on April 21 and the Ohio State 7s Tournament on April 28. Davenport went 9-0 across those tournaments. Olivia Ortiz and Danielle Ordway led the Panthers with eight tries each at their home tournament. Hannah Tennent went 15-for-16 in conversion attempts at Ohio State and was named MVP of the Davenport 7s.

This will be the first meeting between the two programs.

Last Time Out
The Harvard rugby team went 1-2 at the Army West Point All-Academy Sevens Tournament on Saturday, April 28. Juniors Jenny Kronish and Sarah Lipson, as well as freshman Arianna Romero each scored two tries for the Crimson at Anderson Rugby Complex. Sophomore Delia Hellander, freshman Milan Roberts, and junior Susie Clements also contributed to Harvard's score sheet. The Crimson fell in the opening contest to Army, 43-7, before shutting out Mount Saint Mary's, 39-0. Harvard then dropped a 24-7 decision to Dartmouth in a semifinal contest.

At the USA Rugby College 7s National Championship
Harvard is making its first appearance in this tournament. The Crimson has appeared in one other USA Rugby national tournament as a 15s side in 2014 – its first year as a varsity program. Harvard fell to North Carolina, 29-15, and Indiana, 29-24, at that competition. 

Harvard's 7s in `17
The 2017 sevens season saw Harvard win its second Ivy League Championship in a row and finish third in the nation. The Crimson earned its No. 3 national standing after going 4-1 at the NIRA 7s Challenge. Harvard topped West Chester, 17-7, AIC, 24-5, and Dartmouth, 10-7, in group play, but was defeated by Army, 26-7, to finish second in pool play. In the third-place bout, Harvard upended AIC, 26-5, to conclude the year as the No. 3 team in the country.

Harvard became back-to-back Ivy League champions when it defeated Dartmouth in the final. The Crimson swept Columbia, 29-0, and Penn, 45-0, before falling to Dartmouth, 12-0. Harvard then won a 22-19 battle against Princeton to earn a spot in the Ancient Eight title game where it used a strong second half to defeat the Big Green, 10-5.

Fall 15s
The Crimson went 4-3-1, reaching the Ivy League Championship and NIRA National Semifinal. Senior captain Maya Learned, juniors Caitlin Weigel and Jenny Kronish, and freshman Milan Roberts earned All-America honors. Senior lock Haley Langan was bestowed an All-America honorable mention. Roberts paced the Crimson with eight tries, while Weigel scored seven times and converted four times. Learned accumulated five tries, while Kronish led the team with 24 conversions.

National Intercollegiate Rugby Association
NIRA is a cohort of 17 member institutions sponsoring NCAA rugby at their respective divisional level (I, II, or III). Together these schools committed to the expansion of women's rugby and achieving full NCAA sponsorship. Harvard, along with Army, Brown, Dartmouth, Mount St. Mary's, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart are NIRA Division I programs. American International College, Central Washington, Long Island University-Post, Molloy College, Notre Dame College, and West Chester University are Division II schools. Bowdoin College, Castleton University, Norwich University, and the University of New England compete at the Division III level. Each compete against the others for the NIRA national title.

What's Next?
The Crimson await the announcement of the 2018 Sorenson Award in hopes that senior captain May Learned is selected as the top collegiate women's rugby player. The recipient of the distinction will be honored at a gala dinner hosted by the Washington Athletic Club of Seattle on Saturday, June 9.