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Atlantis-APEX Team Debuts at NY 7s

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Atlantis-APEX Team Debuts at NY 7s

The jersey will look familiar – the aquamarine base, Roman numerals and logo – but will be accented with tribal designs not normally found on Atlantis kit. That’s because the girls U19 team playing at the New York 7s will be the first Atlantis/APEX side to take the field, and the new jersey is just one way in which the two entities will be combining forces.

Atlantis’ Emil Signes and APEX’s Karl Barth are two of the most well known rugby personalities in the U.S., and their combined resume starts from the grassroots level and travels up through the Eagles. Signes has been sending 7s teams around the world since 1986, but it wasn’t until the 2014 Las Vegas Invitational that Atlantis fielded a girls U19 squad. Signes knew a couple of standouts from his Mid-Atlantic region, but turned to Colorado-based Barth for insight into the West’s up-and-comers. Barth signed on as head coach, and their first venture together became the precursor of things to come.

There weren’t enough elite competitions for high school girls, although the opportunities for higher-level training – through Serevi and American Rugby Pro Training Center (ARPTC), for example – continued to grow. So Signes and Barth merged programs and concentrated their energies, and the New York 7s team will be their first product.

The team has a bunch of APEX alumni (the only Atlantis alum is Becca Jane Rosko, although Neariah Persinger will soon join the ranks), but the West-based team has never played east of the Mississippi. That’s where NY 7s coach Billy Nicholas comes in handy. Before taking over Lindenwoood women's DI varsity team, Nicholas was coaching girls high school in the Bronx and Old Blue’s first-ever women’s 7s team, comprised mostly of collegians. Nicholas knows both Signes and Barth as well, having sent two of his players to the ’14 LVI team and guest coaching with Barth at Julie McCoy’s ARPTC in August.

“This is a positive step in the right direction,” Nicholas said of the upcoming tournament. “We’re going to see teams from Ontario and Quebec, so it’s great to have the ability to compete at these tournaments. But we also want to develop the Academy. It’s not ‘show up Saturday, play all day, and then go home, that’s it.’ We want to educate the players, so they can bring it back to their clubs. We’re going to record all of the games, have them self-evaluate and then give them good feedback based on the film.”

Rosko has the most experience on tour. The Summit, Colo., player – who is coached by Barth during the high school season – impressed in China as one of the speediest Americans on the Youth Olympic Games 7s squad and also traveled to Mexico with the Tiger Cubs. She is joined by four Summit teammates: Morgan Courtney (named MVP of the Rugby Colorado season), Jodi Losch, Meg Rose and Astrid Ramos.

Whitney Wilson was also on that tour of China, where the USA played Australia, Canada, China, Spain and Tunisia. The Texan recently signed with DI varsity Life University for fall 2015.

Three players are coming from the APEX team that won this August's Serevi Cup: Highland Ranch’s Kelly Albers, ICEF’s Diarr Lillie and Pleasanton’s Emily Roskopf, who is also a High School All American Honorable Mention. Renee Gonzales, who has all-star experience with the Minnesota Tundra, and Rachel Fitch were both named to the first-ever, 15-person High School All American team. Finally, Persinger is a swimming crossover and impressed during the August ARPTC assembly.

“Now that we’ve joined together, we have a good feel for players coast to coast,” Nicholas said. “This is a good opportunity for the players. Back home, they’re the stars and they usually carry their teams. Here, they’ll learn to play a role, and that’s a different challenge.”

The program plans to return to the 2015 LVI; however, USA Rugby is sending an All American 7s team to the same tournament, and the coaching staff has encouraged invitees like Rosko, Lillie, Courtney and Roskopf to represent their country. Those vacancies will simply open up opportunities for more players to bank international competition.

Stay tuned for results from the New York 7s.