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Norwich Cadets Reload

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Norwich Cadets Reload

Northfield, Vt. Norwich University women's rugby team has named their captains for the 2014-15 season. 

Interestingly, the Vermont school will be led by two Canadians. Senior scrumhalf Emily Oor of Uxbridge, Ont. will be team captain while senior No. 8 Vanessa Champagne of St. Nazaire, Que. will be vice-captain.  

Oor made the American Collegiate Rugby Association (ACRA) 7s All-Tournament Team after helping Norwich win the title last spring. That victory followed on from a third-straight USA Rugby 7s title in the fall, and a defeat of Army in the final of the ACRA title in December.

"Emily and Vanessa will be great leaders for our young team this year," said Norwich Head Coach Austin Hall. "They are both four-year starters who not only standout on the rugby field, but also excel in the classroom as well."

These are exciting times at Norwich as they navigate the fragmentation of American college rugby’s competitions. While much has been made of the men’s competitions going various directions, women’s rugby has had a similar split, mostly on chronological lines. ACRA will once again hold a championship weekend in December to decide their 15s winner. And then the spring will be all about 7s.

There are rumors of a potential DIA for women, which might be held in the spring, but nothing concrete, yet.

Hall said he enjoyed having his team play a full season of 7s, rather than a few pickup tournaments (where they still managed to win a national championship). 

“We got a full series of 7s tournaments and played I think 27 games of 7s in the spring,” said Hall. “It was great for recruiting. A lot of high school players are interested in 7s; they want to shoot for the Olympics. So it matters.”

But first up is the 15s fall season, and now that USA Rugby has moved its college 7s tournament to May, the Cadets will be able to concentrate completely on 15s.

“We bring back some great players and I think this is the best recruiting year we’ve ever had,” said Hall, who still expects to bring in players who are new to rugby, as well. Of the freshmen coming in this fall, three were at the Stars & Stripes Game in Colorado this summer, and three more played the year before.

Alana Girardin is an all-star from Massachusetts, a is Frankie Sands (Essex HS), while Ilona Maher was a Vermont all-star with Burlington HS.

But, said Hall, “about two-thirds of our team didn’t play rugby in high school.”

The Cadets lose Rose Bernheim, who was MVP at the USA Rugby 7s championships, along with Jessica Campion, and prop Baylee Annis, to name just three. But junior Flyhalf Hannah Bell, who toured with the All Americans, and prop Riley Blankenship provide plenty of veteran leadership.

Norwich was undefeated last season, winning 13 15s games and 27 7s games without a loss. 

The Cadets have a tough schedule ahead of them, starting with a visit to Dartmouth on September 3, and then hosting USA Rugby national DI champs Penn State September 6 in some sort of unofficial clash of champions. 

Then it’s straight into the NWRC conference play, which includes Army, AIC, Quinnipiac, Rhode Island, and Boston University. Central Washington also will tour as a non-conference opponent.

It’s a series of big tests for the Cadets, but they’ve shown they can handle