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Penn State Impressive in 7s Win

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Penn State Impressive in 7s Win

Unperturbed by the absence of one of the best young 7s players in the USA, the Penn State Nittany Lions still won the Women's Collegiate Rugby Championships 7s invitational tournament this past weekend, defeating a dogged James Madison in the process.

Penn State got a coaching boost from former All Black Chad Tuoro, who came in from New Zealand to preach the gospel of perfecting basic skills and playing as a unit. With Jonathan Swart working with the players longer-term, the Lions roared just loud enough, beating JMU 29-12 in the final in PPL Park.

Those 12 points given up in the final were more than they had allowed the rest of the tournament, as Penn State defeated Navy 19-5 in the opener, and then shut out Air Force (34-0) and Boston University (43-0) in pool play.

That set up a semifinal matchup with Kutztown on Saturday, which the Nittany Lions won 34-0.

Kate Flanagan and Kyle Chipman led the scoring surge, but tries came from several quarters, while Lauren Shissler and Corinne Heavner were equally effective as kickers.

It was a big weekend for Heavner, who was coming back from an ACL injury and missed the 15s championship run.

"She did really well," said Swart. "And she wanted it badly."

Flanagan and Chipman were also solid on a team that was heavily underclassmen. And no Bizer, who dominated play in the 2013 final and also the 2014 15s championship match. She was off trying out (successfully) for the USA women's national team

Only a few weeks removed from winning the USA Rugby 15s title, the Lions had little time to reload for 7s. 

"We put a lot of focus on skills and a lot of focus on fitness," said Swart. "I think our physicality and our fitness really paid off for us."

The skills? Well, sometimes. Swart said the ball handling from Penn State could have been better, and execution of basic skills remains the watchword of the game at the younger levels. 

Still it was an impressive performance by Penn State as they pushed aside some solid teams, including a James Madison squad that had already finished second in the USA Rugby collegiate 7s championships in the fall.