Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Lara Gartner of Georgia Tech

On the pitch for Georgia Tech
Lara Gartner of Georgia Tech comes to Stars Rugby 7s as another recommendation from Coach Rosalind Chou of Life University (who also sent us Elissa Gerard & Nicole Strasko from Life, Jessica Wooden, Judy Dickson & Kassadi Wynter from the Atlanta Harlequins, and Chi Chi Chukwueke and Lara from Georgia Tech). Before Ros took over the Life Women's Rugby program she led Georgia Tech Women's Rugby to successes in the SIRC, USA Rugby 15s and 7s Nationals, and the CRC 7s. She had much to say about Lara's skills as a key contributor on the Georgia Tech team. Lara is often not as flashy as some of her teammates, but is a reliable workhorse who is consistent on the pitch.

Ros further went on to compliment Lara's rugby 7s abilities as a playmaker and finisher, that she was one of the few collegiate players that had earned a spot on the Atlanta Harlequins competitive 7s side this summer. Lara surpassed expectations in her first qualifier tournament, Atlanta's Midnight 7s, where she led the 'Quins in scoring for the day! The switch from collegiate rugby to women's club, especially with a WPL team, is not an easy transition to make. That Lara fit in so seamlessly speaks volumes.

Georgia Tech 15s
Lara will be traveling to Calgary having just spent time with the Women's Collegiate All American East Camp the weekend prior to this. She is currently one of many Stars players attending the Serevi Elite Residency Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Just today we learned she was selected for the Women's Collegiate All American squad and their own Canada tour later in July! We cannot wait to see what Lara brings to the team at Stampede 7s. It bears noting that this is a homecoming of sorts for Lara, who spent part of her childhood in Winnipeg.

Here's her profile in her words:
I'm going into my fifth year at Georgia Tech as a biomedical engineering major and am graduating in December. I'm currently interning at CareFusion as a product engineer working with hand-held surgical instruments. I started playing rugby my freshman year in college after growing up in Winnipeg and Atlanta playing hockey, softball, baskball, track, and swimming.
I started as a lock until our backs coach, Rosalind Chou, saw me and thought I could be more useful in the backline. I then played inside center or flyhalf for my junior and senior year. Last summer, Georgia Tech started a sevens team that went to CRCs in Philadelphia and then the USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens National Championships in Greensboro, NC. For the latter tournament, I was named one of the 8 players to watch which was very exciting! After spraining my ankle during our game against Norwich on the first day, I was unable to play in the final games, however, I was still very proud of my Yellow Jackets! 

At USA Rugby Nationals
For 15s this season, GT went undefeated until conference playoffs. We beat University of Florida then lost to University of Central Florida in the final to finish second in the Division 1 Southern Independent Rugby Conference (SIRC); I was named an SIRC all-conference player. Even though we lost, we got a bid to Sweet Sixteens with UCF, Arizona State, and West Chester which was being played just down the road from us at Life University. We got to play West Chester, who ended up going all the way to Final Fours, which was a great experience.

I love playing great teams and being challenged by them and learning from them. It was a great way to end my rugby career at GT and a great start to my career on the Atlanta Harlequins 7s and 15s team in the fall. Last year, I was invited to the U-20s camp in Atlanta and this past weekend I attended the Women's Collegiate All-American Camp where I met Swift and Kim and a lot of other amazing rugby players. Next week I will attend the Serevi Elite Residency Camp and I can't wait to spend a week playing and learning more about 7s before heading out to Calgary with the Stars where I'll have some family members who live nearby coming out to support! 
At the Olympic Training Center

I also asked Lara for a recap of her experience at the WCAA camp and here it is:
The WCAA camp was a 3 day camp at James Madison University in Virginia where we had 2 practices a day with a lunch break in between and a required ice bath afterwards with all of the free Gatorade products we could ever want (yay for sponsors!). The practices focused on offensively creating space and the importance of trailers, contact body position and form, and defensive alignment and communication. The practices always incorporated "games" of some sort which made it even more fun and competitive. Then there was a team meeting where we talked about different defensive strategies or we had time with our team to strategize and prepare for the scrimmage on the final day. 
Breaking the line on the way to a try with the Atlanta Harlequins
Then on Sunday, we had our scrimmage of blues (dark side!) vs. pinks. It was so much fun playing with all of those amazing rugby players who knew what to do and when to do it and I felt that playing with such high level players really helped elevate my game as well. It was an amazing experience and I had so much fun meeting everyone from all over the country and getting to play with some of the best collegiate players out there. I wish I could go again next year!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Kim Semiglia

Kim with the ball against Team Lola at the LVI
Kim Semiglia (see previous posts here and here) was a member of the Stars Open team for Las Vegas that vastly improved as the tournament developed. As the games went on, her leadership from the flyhalf position helped the team gel and knock out several more experienced clubs, including the Combined Services military team that competed in the Club 7s National Championships, to take 6th out of 24 teams. Given that this was several of our athletes first 7s tournaments and that we had one night of scrimmaging/learning names going in to the tournament, this was no small feat.

Kim has updated us as she returned to her collegiate career at FIU and sent in this post about her experiences at the Women's Collegiate All American East Camp last weekend at James Madison University in Virginia. There she drilled, scrimmaged, and learned alongside fellow Stars players Christina Swift, Nicole Strasko, Lara Gartner, ChiChi Chukwueke and more. They also had the experience of playing for my own amazing collegiate, club and all-star coach Sue Whitwell and the wonderful Martha Daines. I cannot wait to see what she brings to Calgary based on her experiences and feedback at camp! She'll take what she learned into Saturday's Midnight 7s tournament in Atlanta where she'll be playing with Vice City 7s (a new Miami based team with players from FIU, FGCU, AIC and other programs) for summer 7s prior to joining Life University's Women's Rugby team in the fall of 2014. 

Here's Kim's take on WCAA camp and her rugby future:

Although my team and I weren’t fortunate enough to bring home the title in the Final 4 in California, one great thing came out of that weekend for me: I had the honor of being personally invited by the assistant coaches Brandon Sparks and Sue Whitwell to attend the All-American East camp. 

I learned so much throughout the course of 3 days. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to experience this camp led by such great coaches, including the head coach Martha Daines. I wish everyone I play with had the opportunity to attend this camp. Not only did I learn entirely new concepts that I could add to my game, I learned how to correctly do a lot of things that I had been previously doing wrong. Another positive result of the camp was that I made a lot of great connections. It was wonderful being surrounded by so many other women who love the game as much as I do.

The Red Team with a Few Stars Faces
Each day we had a morning and afternoon training session and each session had a specific focus. Every night we would gather together and reflect on the day’s events. On Sunday we ended camp with an 80 minute scrimmage where we aimed to apply everything we had learned throughout the weekend. 

Some key things I learned were how to properly make a spin pass which was slightly different to what I was used to but I’m sure the small difference will do wonders to my pass once I get comfortable with it. Additionally, I learned how to strategically catch a ball from the scrum half depending on where I want my back line to attack. I learned a great way to win a ruck by grabbing one leg of the opposing player while driving up.

Kim, 2nd row, 4th from the right, with her Blue Teammates
An aspect I loved about the camp was how easily applicable many of the things I learned are;  in other words, I can confidently apply it to my game immediately. Everything was explained in a very clear way.  Additionally, we spent a good deal of time practicing the many skills. We would start a drill, stop in the middle, the coach would then see if we had any questions, she then would give us more advice and then we would finish doing more repetitions of the drill. This way if we were doing something wrong, they made sure to correct us so that we could make the best use of our time and practice the correct way. 

The coaches were very happy to help clarify any misunderstandings. Another plus was that if I failed to do something right, rather than just letting it go, they would tell us what we had to fix to be successful in the next attempt. Even if we successfully tackled someone, the coach would critique us if we did it in the wrong way. I think this is useful, because it would suck to get confident tackling with bad form - although it may work at my current level of play, once I get to play higher level I would not be as effective. It stood out when the coaches corrected me for making an arm tackle.

The Red Team and Blue Team on Sunday's Scrimmage
Ultimately, attending this camp was an amazing experience.  I am looking forward to the next time I get to be coached by this coaching staff!

Another great thing that came out of our playoff run was being introduced to Life University’s coach in the rounds of 16 and 8. Life University is one of the few, as well as the newest,  women’s varsity programs in the country.  I’m super excited to be given the chance to be a part of this new team and being coached by Coach Rosalind Chou. The heavy rugby atmosphere that will be provided excites me and the fact that I will be playing alongside other very passionate and talented players excites me too.  It’s going to be awesome to transition from playing for a school where rugby is recognized as a club to a school where the sport is a varsity program. It was a tough decision to make after having such a successful season and being a part of such an amazing group of passionate and talented women at FIU, but it was the best decision to make and I can’t wait to be a part of the Running Eagles.

A Brief Recap on Elite City 7s

Last weekend's Elite City 7s involved a few of our Stars men's players in various capacities. Some men tried out in cities that had open camps and progressed through various stages of cuts to make their squads. In reading facebook posts, talking to coaches and players involved,  and reading comments on other blogs and the USA Rugby website, it seems other teams pulled players together just for the tournament. Some pulled from just their city/state, some from college ranks, some from across the country, and some from the Eagles 7s pool; whether or not it was allowed is still being debated. Some teams were sponsored by Serevi (more on that in a future post).

The San Diego and Seattle squads. Image: USA Rugby
Some trained extensively. Some had players in residency going through 3-a-day workouts together leading up to the tournament. Some traveled early to Houston to acclimate and train there. Ultimately the Seattle and San Diego teams loaded with currently contracted Eagles 7s players, more uncontracted players that have seen time on the iRB series, and notable former Eagles like Kevin Swiryn and Peter Tiberio made the finals. Some were offended with these "stacked" teams while others argue that to play with the best you have to be the best. With the secondary goal of the tournament being to scout domestic players for the Eagles 7s pool, what better venue is there to show you belong than in displaying a monster tackle or breakaway speed against the current players?

The Philadelphia team with only 9 men on their roster according to the USA Rugby release (which also had some players on multiple teams and some teams listed with more than 12 players so may not have been entirely accurate) surprised a lot of rugby fans. Salt Lake City also showed well, elevating in each match to go from shutouts to causing upsets  Day 2. Washington DC is another team that really came together over the course of the tournament and defied lower expectations. Fans couldn't fully stream matches due to the faulty feed (and the Friday games that conflicted with normal working hours), though social media was full of live reports.

Bottom line - as expected with any rugby tournament preparation, everyone handled their team in different ways, built rosters in different ways, trained in different ways. If the rules with player eligibility weren't clear, we cannot really fault the teams that took advantage of it and built the strongest squads possible. This was an event to win and play against the best teams in the world (some of our Central Coast 7s foes will be participating in World Club 7s) and Seattle decidedly won it all with their on-field performances and earned their tickets to Twickenham. Regardless of the politics, their players did the work.

I'd personally like to see this tournament move to later in the summer when more of the athletes involved will be in a 7s sort of mind frame and 7s physical shape. Some players were involved in 15s playoffs only one week prior to the event and the transition from 15s to 7s can take some time to click. World Club 7s - the real end goal of winning Elite City 7s - takes place the weekend of August 17th so there would be time to host this tournament later in the summer.

Our US Club 7s Nationals are the weekend prior to Twickenham, so assembling a city team to travel to the UK based on that performance is not realistically feasible for logistic/planning purposes. But why not set up this tournament to take place over the extended 4th of July weekend? Or in early August after regional 7s qualifying is done and teams have 2-3 open weekends prior to nationals? Or run it on 3-4 different dates, grow the concept of Elite City 7s with a West Coast tournament, East Coast tournament and something hosted in the Heartland with an iRB like points system for placing each weekend? These teams would benefit train for something more than just a one-off event, develop chemistry, and let's really see what happens at tournaments two and three! Players with cohesion, confidence, and better timing with their teammates would certainly perform better and make some of the matchups more challenging.

Image: USA Rugby
Despite all the gripes, I believe Elite City 7s is a step in the right direction to nurture our domestic player pool and fill the void of the missing NASC tournament that used to take place at the end of August. This tournament was a solid start for something that could be vastly improved. The failures were fixable lapses in communication and in execution.

For the future, clear and public regulations regarding team rosters and sizes would be help. Earlier roster releases could draw more publicity and social media for the event in featuring player profiles and allowing rugby publications to analyze matchups and better speculate the outcomes. Event sponsorship can and should grow. The correct scores listed on the USA Rugby site and twitter feed, which still lists Chicago as beating Ohio on Day 1 when the score was 17-0 to Ohio among other errors, would also help legitimize the tournament.

To enhance the tournament buildup, attract more fans, enhance media presence and attract sponsorships, another idea would be to combine either a one-off tournament or multiple legs of a series with the CRC or LVI events. The CRC has a solid fan base and a television contract and the Elite City 7s teams matchups would balance nicely with the college games. The LVI could create a bracket for the Elite City 7s team to compete in or just enter these sides in the premier men's festival that takes place next to USA 7s. The LVI could also allow elite Canadian clubs to compete for a World Club 7s spot too..... and yes we all know wthe CRC is run entirely separate from USA Rugby but these organizations should look at partnering in some way to play off each other's strengths to grow the game. To keep it short: one has the best players, the other has the best television deals.

Additionally, it would make sense to get rid of the complicated seeding situation and Day Two byes to expand this to a 16 team tournament. New York should have to earn their way just like any other club; though they placed 5th at last year's World Club 7s event, that was with national team players like Carlin Isles added to their "city" roster (plus the Boston team had a roster with some NY players on it anyways). Add in the likes of Los Angeles, Minneapolis or Hawaii for more reach in rugby rich areas.

Most important to add to the mix would be a team from Atlanta to take advantage of the depth of talent in the South . 8 of the 16 teams in the Men's Collegiate 7s National Championships were from this region while NOLA and Atlanta Old White who each made the Cup Round of last years club championships; NOLA that made the 15s D1 Final against South rival Life while Atlanta upset a strong Charlotte side to make it to USA Rugby D2 Nationals..You could easily seed a team or two in that region - especially with someone like the Arkansas-based Julie McCoy coaching!

Curtis Reed of This is American Rugby has more thoughts on the matter via his article on RugbyRugby.com:

Thoughts On The Elite City 7s

Last weekend’s Elite City 7s had a bit of everything: good rugby, team turnarounds, and controversy. Seattle took home the trophy and a spot in the World Club 7s in August and did so in convincing fashion with a win over San Diego in the final. To reach the final Seattle and San Diego had to overcome very good Denver and Philadelphia teams.

We were at the tournament and as such thought we’d provide a few observations:
Format: Prior to the tournament the format had come under skepticism but in the end it made the tournament extremely entertaining. Basically it rewarded teams that won and won convincingly. Teams played a set opponent in the first round and then played another winner in round two. At the end of the first day each team was ranked 1-12 with the top four getting a bye in the first round on day two. As Boston and a few other teams found out, having to play an extra game on Saturday hurt. The bottom line was that the format made nearly every single match important in some way.

Communication: The big controversy at the tournament was that some coaches were told that there would be no contracted athletes at the tournament. Other coaches were told that the contracted athletes would be spread around. In the end the entire San Diego team was made up of players from the OTC while Seattle had Andrew Durutalo. Teams like Philadelphia, who played San Diego in the semi-finals, had legitimate complaints. It all comes down to communication and it’s clear that there wasn’t enough from U.S.A. Rugby.

Top Teams: That said, only San Diego had a team entirely of contracted athletes and they still lost to Seattle. The Seattle side has a number of former Eagles on their team but only Durutalo was contracted. Seattle, San Diego, and Denver were the best teams on the weekend and if the tournament was played multiple times throughout the year each would have a great chance of picking up a tournament win. Denver especially was impressive for the way they worked together.

Challenge: Even though teams were upset that San Diego used contracted players the point of the tournament was to challenge the best players in the country and identify players for the Eagles. What better way to put your hand up and say I want time with the Eagles than playing well against them. Chris Mattina from Philadelphia did that as did Max De Achaval and Preston Bryant from Denver. Yeah, it sucks for a lot of teams that Seattle and San Diego dominated most of the tournament but at least now they know the standard they need to be bringing.
Players: There were a number of players out there this weekend that could push for a spot on the Eagles. There weren’t any standout players aside from the ones we already knew about—Mike Palefau, Will Holder, Mike Teo—but there were a number of other intriguing players. Denver’s Kevon Williams stands out among those. A relative newcomer to the team he scored tries in bunches.

Improvement: There were several teams that showed a lot of improvement throughout the tournament. Philadelphia came into the tournament as definite underdogs but utilizing a week of training in Houston the mostly college-based side improved with every match and had a great weekend. They were the feel good story. Another team that improved was Salt Lake. They went into the tournament with the youngest roster by far and looked very shaky after the first two rounds. But and upset win in the second round set them up for a two win day and a solid showing.

In the end the tournament wasn’t without its flaws. Playing in Houston was a mistake in terms of the heat and humidity (the web stream over heated for fans trying to watch at home). There wasn’t really an atmosphere at the tournament despite some solid rugby. That said, it did bring out the best in a lot of different players and organizations. It also gave the Eagles coaching staff and opportunity to evaluate players.

If we were to provide recommendations for future iterations of the tournament we would suggest holding it in a better venue with seats. Stanford’s stadium, Infinity Park, and a number of other small venues come to mind. We would also suggest having the tournament 3-4 times a year. That way teams can make adjustments and improve. There is no question that last week brought out most of the best olympic-eligible talent in the country and by pitting the best against now another is how we are going to make better players.

Curtis Reed is the founder and editor of This Is American Rugby. He can be found on Twitter @ThisIsAmerRugby, on Facebook, and at www.thisisamericanrugby.com

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Nate Olsen

Nate with Justin Fitzpatrick and Ben Gollings
Nate came to our men's team highly recommended by some of his fellow Milwaukee Barbarian teammates as well as his former college coach Todd Streeter, who touted him as the best player ever produced from University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Todd doesn't hand out such accolades freely and his glowing remarks cemented Nate's spot on our roster.

After he and I spoke more about our Stars program and played a little of "who in rugby do we mutually know" we established that I had coached against him as a player when I was coaching Northwestern University Men and that he had also played alongside several of the men that were part of an elite summer 7s team I put together for 2 years. We further had mutual friends of friends in Northern Ireland.

Keeping in the spirit of Stars giving back to the game of rugby, Nate is currently coaching at UW-Parkside which also speaks volumes as Todd has worked diligently over the years to build that team (and the NSCRO) and would only hand over the reigns to someone well qualified and passionate enough to continue its growth. He is playing his club 15s and 7s with the Milwaukee Barbarians as well as focusing on his career in the fitness world. I've sadly moved from Milwaukee to Chicago, otherwise I'd certainly train with him. Nate is a welcome addition on the pitch as an inagural member of our men's program!

Here's his story in his words:

Scoring a try rookie year at UW-Parkside
I am a crossover rugby athlete that transitioned to rugby from soccer and wrestling. I have been playing rugby since the fall of 2006. My career started after two friends (Ben Bastian – current Milwaukee Barbarian and Scott Simonsen – Parkside Alum) dragged me out to a practice at the University of Wisconsin Parkside under the infamous Coach Todd Streeter.

While at Parkside I won Rookie Of The Year in spring 2007 and Most Valuable Back in spring 2008. I also had the honor of playing with Parkside in the Chicago Cup twice, both times falling to UW-Madison in the championship. 

During the summer of 2008, I was selected for a tryout in January 2009 with Bangor RFC, a feeder program for Ulster RFC, located in Bangor, Northern Ireland by the FRU (Front Row Union) during a skills and development camp in Chicago. The selection was made by John McMurty (Owner FRU), Justin Fitzpatrick (former long-time Irish International and Ulster Prop, current USA Forwards and Serevi coach) and Jamie Turkington (Former Ulster back, Dugannon RFC and current IRFU U-18 Backline Coach). I was asked to return but declined. 

Training during a break from rugby
Upon returning home in February 2009 I spent the next spring with Parkside and joined the Milwaukee Harlequins during the summer for 7s and their first season in D1. In the fall of 2010, after numerous nagging injuries and the tragic, unforeseen accident of my great friend, mentor and well known rugby ambassador Philippe “Fiji” Leka passing (miss you my brother!) I decided to split from rugby and focus on weight training and the fitness industry. 

After a brief stint in the fitness industry that saw me start a successful personal training company and compete and place in the sport of bodybuilding, I felt it was time to hang up the hammock and throw the boots back on!

Initially, I returned to rugby to give back to the sport and help develop youth players to help further the sport of rugby in the US. I had absolutely zero intent on playing again, but after a season as assistant coach at UW-Parkside and filling in at practices for the Kenosha Vultures high school team I decided to give the sport another try. No pun intended!

I am currently a member of the Milwaukee Barbarians. On the pitch this team is comprised of the best rugby athletes in Wisconsin competing in the highest men’s club level in the state. This past season saw us place 3rd in the Midwest, one of the toughest grind-it-out divisions in the country for both men’s  and women’s rugby. Off the pitch it is also a group of some of the best guys I know and I am privileged to be playing with them.

Harborfest 7s Champions with Milwaukee Harlequins

Although I am now an active player, I am still an active coach and try to learn as much as I can about this beautiful sport so I can pass whatever knowledge I gain onto our younger generations. When my playing days are over I plan on coaching where ever I am able, preferably at the youth and high school levels.
I am thankful for this opportunity to play with Star Rugby Sevens and want to give a huge thank you to the Alberts (Nick, Zach and Mike) for their recommendation of me and Liz for everything she has done to set up this great program.  I also want to thank all of our sponsors for their contributions. 

 – Nate Olsen, Racine, WI

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Meet Nicole Strasko of Life University

**UPDATE: Nicole was unable to join us for the Calgary 2014 tour but I  had the pleasure of watching her develop in both 7s and 15s over the course of the 2014-2015. With several Stars already on Life's roster and Tobago Star KB transferring in winter quarter, this is a program where Stars keep a close connection. We finally saw Nicole play live at January's ARPTC camp in Little Rock which she attended with fellow Life speedsters Christina Swift and Deshel Ferguson as well as S&C Coach Kimberly Knipe. Over the course of 4 days their already solid skills developed and tournament play yielded several tries by the Running Eagles contingent.

Stars ties with Life U meant we spent an additional 5 long weekends with the team this spring observing trainings, in the weight room, watching film, supporting at men's and women's matches, and attending ODA sessions. Both undergrad programs ended their15s seasons ranked in the Top 5 nationally and will compete in the CRC tournament in Philadelphia this weekend; the men's Elite Training Group ran the table in the Atlantic Rugby Premiership to take the title.

As a first year D1 women's program Life has achieved a lot of success. Their coaching staff transformed a team where some of the players first picked up a ball in September into disciplined national contenders. Their players bought into the system and have challenged themselves in a rigorous training environment. The 2015-2016 campaign, in which Life will play an independent schedule against varsity sides from across the US will see continued growth and an outpouring of rugby talent from Atlanta.**

Nicole Strasko comes to Stars Rugby 7s via the Life University Women's Rugby Team coached by my good friend (and awesome rugby chatterbox/HUGE women's rugby advocate/dreamer of bigger things/ amazing Atlanta Harlequins player and president) Ros Chou.

Ros is one of the best and brightest rugby minds I know who is more than capable of leading Life's women's program to success to equal its men's. She has done an incredibly thorough job in her recruiting process (Life is a varsity program with scholarships available) in traveling across the US and we've had long discussions about potential players from the Midwest and from the Stars!

Thus, a few of our Vegas Stars will be transferring to play for her this fall and will join rookies Nicole and Elissa on the pitch as Running Eagles. This Canada trip will be a fantastic opportunity for Nicole, Elissa and Kim to play together prior to fall 15s training (Gracie is also moving to play at Life but was unavailable for the Calgary Tour). I cannot wait to see what this combination of women are capable of... if Ros recommended them they have to have some serious potential.

Here's Nicole's rugby story in her words:

I started playing rugby last season for the first time ever. I came in knowing nothing, but am falling in love with the game the more I learn and the more I play. After playing my first season I was chosen as an honorable mention for the Independent South Conference. The closest to a contact sport I had played previously was basketball, which I played at my undergrad college for 4 years and loved it! I am an aggressive athlete, and can't get enough of the physicality of rugby.

I just returned from the USA Women's Rugby Collegiate All American Camp in Virginia where I learned a great deal and was privileged to play with passionate women with talent.

Additionally, I can't wait to further my 7s game, because I have been playing as a loose forward and I love the freedom it gives me. I take this opportunity whole-heartedly and take new experiences as a way to grow, and of course all in good fun!

I am in chiropractic school right now, and I want to take care of the Olympic Rugby team as well as all rugby players and athletes in the future. Opportunities like this opens up doors for my dreams to come true. Plus, the more I know about the sport and the more I play myself, the more I can help those athletes in the future because I have been in their shoes. 
I believe everything happens for a reason, and I know that to be true for rugby and the people I have grown close to because of it!
 -Nicole Strasko
Life University Women's Rugby

Note: Nicole has a personal fundraising page here for anyone interested in supporting her Calgary travels!

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Stars Player Round-Up

Several of our Stars have been in action over the past few weeks (so much so this blog has been difficult to keep up with):

-Rookies Tatum Walker and Michelle Montague competed with the Beavers 7s side at the festival tournament alongside Amsterdam 7s. Our friendly rivals Tribe 7s from Australia also competed and took the title.

-Vets Liz Entwhistle (Fort Miami) and Rebecca Trapp (Pittsburgh) were in Pittsburgh for the USA Rugby Club Championships where pool players Kyle Granby (NYAC) and Marcus Satavu (New Haven) also hit the pitch. Rebecca's Pittsburgh Angels team won the East to advance to the USA Rugby D2 Championship game in Madison, WI.

-Rookies Nana Fa'avesi, Sana Fa'Avesi and Siu Green won the USA Rugby West Championship with their Sacramento Amazons team. We may be picking up Mariella Hey for the squad too!

-Rebecca's Pittsburgh team prevailed in Madison to repeat as D2 Women's Club Champions in what was the closest and best game of the day!

-Stampede 7s Rookie Kayla Rudman and Vegas Vet Carly MacKinnon attended the Women's Collegiate All American West Camp in Colorado.

-Vegas Vets Christina Swift and Kim Semiglia are participating in the Women's Collegiate All American East camp this weekend in at James Madison University in Virginia. Rookie Lara Gartner is there as well as injured pool player ChiChi Chukweke.

-Rookie Ty Elkins is competing this weekend for the Ohio All Star Team at the Elite City 7s Competition in Houston. Earlier this spring he traveled to play 7s in Norway and was named tournament MVP. Additionally this spring he has been competing in 15s for the South All Stars in the NACRA Championships where they look to repeat as title winners.

-Rookies Josie Ziluca and Kaelene Lundstrom and pool player Jessica Turner toured Spain with Atlantis 7s over the last week of May.

- We added 5 Canadian collegiate players from University of Victoria and University of Alberta to our roster for Stampede 7s!

- Kyle Granby also took part in the first Super 7s test on US soil. The New York Rhinos squad lost to the Ontario Blues  79-43 in this four quarter, 48 minute long 7s match that allows rolling subs and a 16-man roster.