Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stars Rugby 7s Tobago 7s Roster

The rosters for our Tobago International Rugby Sevens Tournament tour run deep with experience with 35 players selected  for one men's and two women's teams. Five players have been capped at the International 7s level while several more have been selected to the regional USA Rugby National Development Academies. Alumni of the HSAA and U-20 Eagles teams pair with Serevi Athletes and Serevi Institute members, more that have attended the Serevi Residency Camps, players from USA South 7s and 15s, those from the Armed Forces, and women from the American Pro Rugby Training Center High Performance 7s Camps.

The tour features athletes ranging in ages from 18-40, from the D3 club level to the World Class Athlete Program, from D2 colleges to the WPL, and we bring in three members of the Old Blue Women's 7s side that made it to the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship Game. While the roster is mostly US based we continue the Stars tradition of guest athletes with men from Australia and Canada on the roster. We boast an experienced international coaching staff with national team caps of their own to guide the teams.

The Tobago 7s roster features a mix of talent and experience that represents what I believe are our strongest Stars teams to date. Months of scouting at collegiate matches, USA Club 7s Nationals, Serevi Rugbytown 7s, Elite City 7s, the ARPTC, ACRA playoffs, during previous Stars tours, and game evaluations at last weekend's New York 7s will bring together a fantastic group of athletes Tobago. Our player pool is nearing 300 athletes interested in playing higher level 7s and in continuing their development.

This tour will allow young players like Kaitlin (KB) Broughton of Oklahoma and Rontrice Thomas of Tennessee their first chances to challenge themselves at an elite level. Their impressive fitness scores and the recommendations of opposing coaches have provided them the opportunity to showcase their speed alongside the hard runs and bruising hits of current 7s Eagle Nana Fa'Avesi (who scored her first WSWS try in Dubai earlier today) and former 15s/7s Eagle Phaidra Knight. Tiara Littleton & Cara Thayer continue their development playing on their 3rd Stars tours; Tiara brings added experience from Fiji's Coral Coast 7s in November. Fehi Schaaf will bring her experiences from the USA U-20 level and debut for the Stars with fellow Californians Tee Stroughter and Angelina Lomu f San Francisco Golden Gate. Jen Harig of Davenport University, Corinne Heavner of Penn State, and Shamira Robles of AIC are a trio of Stars from elite collegiate programs that earned invites after the ARPTC HP7s camp while Amanda Divich brings scrumhalf/flyhalf experience from Lindenwood University.

The men have more experience, depth and positional skills than on any tour in the past. We return five players from the Australia Central Coast 7s tour including Jojo Tikoisuva who was invited to/ attended Fiji's Dubai 7s camp with Coach Ben Ryan. It is noteworthy that both Jojo and Cody Weber suffered injuries in Australia and were not available for the full set of tournament games. Australian Rugby League crossover Eddie Paea, formerly of the Rabbitohs, joins us once again fresh from Dubai 7s and will find hard running options in forwards Eric Duechle and Marcus Satavu - familiar names to anyone who has followed the Eagles men's 7s team. Kyle Granby of the Northeast ODA comes in as a speedy wing/flyhalf option while Joe Senteno adds another scrumhalf/sweeper option - anyone who saw him play for Air Force 7s at the the last two Serevi Rugbytown 7s will be familiar with his try-saving tackles.

Stars Rugby 7s Tobago 7s Rosters
Zach Blalock - Birmingham Rugby Club/Atlanta Old White/Life ODA
Eric Duechle - WCAP/Serevi Institute
Amro Guda - Charlotte Rugby Club/Life ODA
Kyle Granby - NYAC/Northeast ODA
Jonathan Halter - Gainesville Hogs/Florida 7s
*Chris Milledge - Charlotte Rugby Club/Life ODA
Mitch Millett - St Albert RFC (Canada)
*Eddie Paea - Eastern Suburbs (Australia)/Tonga 7s
Marcus Satavu - OMBAC/Bulldog Rugby
Joe Senteno - Downtown Rugby Club (Las Vegas)/Air Force 7s
*Saula (Junior) Sucu - Washington Rugby Club (DC)
*Jojo Tikoisuva - Sacramento Lions
Antoine Turner - Life West Gladiators
*Cody Weber - Kansas City Blues

Kaitlyn (KB) Broughton: Oklahoma Roses
Judy Dickson: Atlanta Harlequins
*Amanda Divich: Lindenwood University
*Liz Entwhistle: Fort Miami/W1823
*Joanne (Nana) Fa'Avesi: Sacramento Amazons/USA 7s
*Kat Gorham: North Shore (Boston)
*Jen Harig: Davenport University
Corinne Heavner: Penn State Univeristy/Old Blue Women
Courtney Jessamy: Charlotte Rugby Club
Phaidra Knight: Old Blue Women
*Tiara Littleton: Dallas Harlequins
Angelina Lomu: San Francisco Golden Gate
*Toni Lloyd: Allen Griffins
Michelle Perna: Seattle Saracens/Serevi Institute
Shamira Robles: American International College/Old Blue Women
Gardenia (Fehi) Schaaf: Sacramento Amazons
Tiana (Tee) Strougher: San Francisco Golden Gate
*Cara Thayer: South Buffalo Sinners
Rontrice Thomas: Knoxville Minx
Sarah Thomas: Wisconsin Rugby Club
Lauren (LT) Turner: Scioto Valley/W1823
Kassidi Wynter: Atlanta Harlequins

*Orene Ai'i - New Zealand
Vaha Esikia - Las Vegas Rugby Academy/UNLV/Rugby12
*Liam Hutchinson: Bow Valley Grizzlies/Wildrose Academy/Rugby Alberta (Canada)

Stars Director:
*Liz Entwhistle

*Members of Previous Stars Tours

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Player Nominations Open for 2015 Las Vegas Invitational/USA 7s Tour!

A few updates will be coming soon including:

*Our Australia Central Coast 7s recap including articles from players involved
*Updates from Stars around the US on their college/club seasons
*Updates from our newest Star abroad, Deven Owsiany, who stayed on in Australia and is heading to Coral Coast 7s in Fiji next week
*Thoughts on the new NDA announcements
*Thoughts on Dubai 7s to come 
*New on our Tobago 7s tour in December
*More player & coaches profiles

But most importantly, player nominations are now open for the 2015 Las Vegas Invitational/USA 7s tour in February. Anyone interested in touring MUST fill our the player survey included in the body of the announcement BY NOVEMBER 20TH:

Stars Rugby 7s aims take 2 men's teams to compete in the Elite and Aces divisions. The Elite bracket includes national teams like Spain, Peru, Mexico, Germany, Romania and Russia as well as the USA Falcons and several of the ODAs. The Aces generally to include the most competitive club sides. The final decision for brackets will depend on the numbers, commitment and quality of players involved. If appropriate Stars will enter 2 Aces sides or an Aces & Kings side.

We aim to once again take 2 women's sides to compete in the Elite bracket  featuring several NACRA national teams (Mexico, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, the Canada MapleLeafs),the Japan Women's 7s team, as well as other touring teams like the Dog River Howlers, Aptoella, Les Bleues and Atlantis. The open bracket features a wide array of teams from club sides, social teams, U-23 All Stars, to the Japan B-side and other national teams like Chile, Costa Rica and Germany. There is a high level of competition in each bracket and we aim to approve on last year's finishes in the Cup rounds of each bracket. If there is enough interest we will take an additional open side.

Tour is slated for February 10th-16th. All players will be required to arrive by 2pm on February 10th so as to attend an evening training session, participate in team activities, and for trainings on February 11th. The Open/Aces/Men's Elite brackets play on Thursday, February 12th and Friday the 13th; the Men's Elite also playing on February 14th. The Elite Women play the 13th and 14th. Should the Aces or Elite sides make the finals an additional game would take place inside Sam Boyd Stadium on Sunday, February 15th between the USA 7s matches.

Tour fee is estimated at $700 to include 6 hotel nights at The Rivieria (which is the official LVI hotel), 4 days
of buses to matches and Sam Boyd Stadium, tournament fees, food for game days, playing & training kit, trainers & coaches, transportation to trainings, and more. This tour fee is an estimate and is subject to change pending final numbers and arrangements as well as team sponsorships. Stars offer many fundraising and sponsorship opportunities to help offset costs. The tour fee will be lower for players that have participated in the Calgary, Australia and Tobago trips as they already have the main playing kit.

Stars Rugby 7s is committed to developing players, to expanding individual skills, while putting those that demonstrate top ability, fitness and dedication on the path to 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. The program features top international coaches, former iRB 7s players, and an elite training staff. We have the support of those involved with the National Development Academies and the opportunity to set up exchanges with clubs all over the world. Players that play for the Stars in Las Vegas will be given preference for remaining 2015 tours including Samoa in May, Canada in July, Canada in September, a return to Australia in October, and either Dubai or Tobago in December. We believe in continued development of a core group of players that regularly attend tournaments together and while identifying and adding new talent to the program. We believe every player involved should go home a stronger player with a bigger rugby network, a higher rugby education, the ability to make their home club better, and to grow the game of rugby 7s.

Interested players MUST fill out this survey by November 20th. Selections will be made by November 30th with a $100 deposit due no later than November 30th. Please note that selections are to be a part of the general tour and not a guaranteed placement in a certain division. Teams will be determined through performance at training sessions. A schedule of payments and deadlines will be included with the official invites. Any deposits made are non-refundable until a replacement player is found.

Responsibility, communication and dedication to the team all play a factor in selections and continued touring opportunities with the Stars Rugby 7s program. Rugby skills, fitness, and 7s experience are the other determining factors. You can never be too fit for this game. If there are any questions or concerns, please
contact Stars Director Liz Entwhistle.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meet The Team CC7s Edition: Jessica (JT) Turner

When I first came across JT and her American flag scrum cap on the rugby field I HATED her. At the 2013 USA Rugby Club 7s Championships in Pittsburgh my Chicago Lions 7s team was in the same pool as her Berkeley All Blues side. We were both 2-0 heading into the final match of the day and both assured of making the Cup Quarterfinals, and winning that third match was crucial for seeding as whoever lost would come across the Pool B winners and 2012 Club 7s Champions, the San Diego Surfers.

My team lost that game 22-19 on a disputed call - what seemed to be a forward pass by Berkeley was also knocked-on and the referee said "forward", both teams stopped play because of the seemingly obvious infraction and we anticipated a scrum. However, the whistle was not blown and JT smartly picked up the ball and ran it in for a try. Their team went on to win the championship (adding to their collection as the most decorated women's rugby team in the Women's Premier League) and in the other 5 games only had 10 total points scored against them. DARN IT JT!

I came across her again this February in the Women's Elite bracket of the Las Vegas Invitational where she donned an Atlantis Rugby jersey. Once again her team got the best of us (and she may or may not have drop tackled me like no one else has) and we chatted after the match about Stars opportunities and keeping in touch. I extended her an invite to Calgary and to future tours and while Calgary didn't pan out due to club 7s scheduling, she did make our Central Coast 7s roster.

I got to see JT yet again at this year's Club 7s Championships in Seattle where her Berkeley team took 3rd place and saw her again 2 weeks later at the American Pro Rugby Training Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was a welcome veteran presence at the High Performance 7s Camp and made a difference on the pitch again with her hard running lines and ability to set her teammates into space. JT plays a unique role in the game of 7s - you'll see in Australia! Plus I'm glad I eventually got to know her off the pitch as a friend.

Here's more on JT in her words:
I started playing rugby in college at Humboldt State University after some rugby girls recruited me. Originally I was trying to play soccer but it didn't work out. Once I got started, I was hooked! It was so much fun and the girls were really cool, and I soon realized that this is the sport that I was born to play that I literally didn't know about until then. I played my couple years of college and then "retired" for a little bit.

Towards the end of graduate school I started to really miss rugby. I went to 2 Pacific Coast Grizzlies tryout camps to try and make the squad. I ended up making the first round of cuts (and I was ecstatic because I hadn't played rugby in 5 years), and I was able to travel to San Diego to scrimmage the SoCal Griffins. After meeting many All Blues and Coach Kathy Flores, I made the executive decision to move to the bay to play with Berkeley, and my goal was to be the best player I could possibly be so I could become an Eagle.

After playing with the All Blues for the past 2 years, I'm the proud owner of 2 gold medals from a WPL National Championship and a 7s Club National Championship, a silver from WPL, and a bronze from 7s this last summer. I've also been blessed to have toured with Atlantis 7s in Las Vegas last year and to Spain this past summer. I've also attended an ETC for 15s, trained at the American Pro Rugby Training Center in Little Rock, and am now on my first tour with the Stars 7s to Australia! 
I'm so happy to have learned and played for some spectacular rugby coaches throughout all my adventures as well as some amazing players and teammates. Rugby is awesome because it has taken me places I never thought I would go, I've met some of the best people I've ever known, and I've learned so much about myself as a person and an athlete through my career. I'm very grateful and blessed to have the love and support from people from all aspects of my life! Now I've got my eyes on USA 7s with my heart set on Rio. It's been a tough but amazing road, but I'm going forward as best I can and leaving the rest up to the universe to decide for me.

I'm super pumped for the Central Coast 7s because this will be my first time in Australia and will also be the best competition I will have faced in my career thus far. I'm ready to rip it up on the pitch as well as have a great time off it!! It's now time to show everyone that I am an awesome player and am ready for the next major step in my career!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meet The Team CC7s Edition: Matt Hughston

Matt Hughston is a name that many following rugby 7s this summer will recognize . He was selected to the Washington DC Elite City 7s team and took home First Team All Tournament honors, captained the  Charlotte Rugby Club 7s side that made the Cape Fear 7s finals and placed 3rd at South regionals, playing alongside with CC7s Star Chris Milledge. Matt's relentless effort was rewarded as he was invited to the first of new Eagles Men's 7s Coach Mike Friday's High Performance Sevens camps at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Matt additionally took the pitch for Azul y Negro at Serevi Rugbytown 7s and continued his try scoring ways.

Matt is a standout athlete in a region of the United States that until recently was fairly under served when it comes to elite 7s opportunities (we touched a bit on that topic in this post). Fortunately, the much deserving Life University was just announced a new National Development Academy as a part of USA Rugby's Olympic Development Academy yesterday and additional opportunities a bit closer to home should arise.Without the same traditional Sevens Qualifier Circuit in the South the ability to play consistent, challenging competition lags - the South hosts a one-off tournament to qualify for nationals as compared to the 4 to 5 tournament series you find in the Northeast, Midwest, West and California - and this year only 6 teams traveled for the qualifier. This contrasts to the Midwest where as many as 16 men's teams play in each qualifier, and anywhere from 16 to 80+ additional teams play in competitive and social brackets. Some clubs fielded two sides in the qualifiers this year with a wealth of talent and competition for roster spots.

Increasing access to high level rugby 7s is one of the driving forces for our Stars program. It is worth noting that of our men's team traveling to Central Coast 7s, only one player plays for a team that made the Club 7s National Championships. It is a pleasure to be offer additional elite 7s opportunities to players like Matt. He came highly recommended to the Stars program by a few other players and coaches; there is little explanation needed as to why he made our Central Coast 7s side. He is an ambitious player with the right skills and credentials to make an impact on the international scene. Our side can provide him with the added opportunity to train and compete as other players on the iRB circuit do for a week and to compete directly against these players. Daveta, Yamacia, and Red Rock are each rumored to have members of the Fijian National Team that won Gold Coast 7s on their rosters. Middlesex will have at least one All Blacks player and it's certain that players from Australia's 7s pool will be in action.

Here's more on Matt:

Matt Hughston Profile:
25 years old
Hometown – Charlotte NC
College - Eastern Carolina University

Notable Rugby Achievements: 
U19 Eastern Seaboard All-Stars MVP (beat out Cam Dolan, Colton Cariaga)
U20 Eagles 2009
Collegiate All-South XVs 2009
Twice named USA Rugby Collegiate Division II Rugby All American
Vice Captain USA South Panthers 2012-present
Atlantis 7s 2013-present
Named to First Tournament Team for Elite City 7s
Eagles Men’s 7s High Performance Camp Summer 2014
Named Rio 2016 hopeful

Aspirations: To achieve the honor of being named an Eagle for Sevens and eventually XVs. I am looking to elevate my game play in Australia against the world’s highest club competition and develop in an international setting. My main goal is to become an Olympian in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet The Team CC7s Edition: Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan is another member of the Stars program who connected with us via social media via the Facebook page and had a pretty stellar resume to back up his desire to play high level 7s. Besides a rugby background with roots in Kentucky and at Xavier University, Matt is a Captain in the United States Army.

Each year the Armed Forces participate in Serevi Rugbytown 7s as well as in exhibitions at the Collegiate Rugby Championships 7s . The All Army Rugby 7s Team, for whom Matt has been selected for, has produced several players currently training at the Olympic Training Center as a part of the World Class Athlete Program.

I had the chance to watch the Armed Forces Cup live this year and Army easily took the title and advance to the semifinals of Rugbytown 7s - all while playing 2 extra games including early morning Friday matches, as compared to the "regular" teams participating. Their success is all the more impressive when you consider their team does not train together regularly and some are not even in the same state, let alone the same country for most of the year.

Beyond All Army 7s, Matt has sought out high performance rugby opportunities between his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He attended the Serevi Rugby Camp in College Park, Maryland this past April (as detailed in this Rugby Today article) and was then extended the offer to attend their Men's High Performance Resident Camp in Glendale, CO this summer.

It was an easy decision to extend Matt an invite for our Central Coast 7s tour and, between other
military duties, whichever tours he can make. He's been a fantastic ambassador for our program in recommending players across all the branches of the Armed Forces to our side as well as those he's observed at various camps.

Here's more on Matt:

- First played in high school for the Northern Kentucky Gentlemen Rugby Club.
- Continued playing in college at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Graduated in 2008 and began active duty service in the Army as a Second Lieutenant.
- Played at Fort Bragg, NC after return from Iraq deployment in August 2010.
- In July 2013, played for All Army 7s during the inaugural Military Memorial Cup, winning the
gold medal.

- Deployed to Afghanistan from August 2013 to May 2014.
- Attended Serevi Men’s High Performance Resident camp in August.
- Currently the Vice President and co-captain of the Fort Drum (NY) 
Barracks Rangers Rugby Club.
- Excited and thankful for the opportunity to travel to Australia with Stars Rugby. Looking forward to meeting my new teammates, working hard, and the challenge of playing against some of the best talent in the world.