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AIC, Lindenwood Show Women's College 7s Strength in LVI

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AIC, Lindenwood Show Women's College 7s Strength in LVI

AIC happy to have that trophy.

In a women's college 7s tournament at the LVI that included some select sides, and some well-regarded teams from Canada, it was two American colleges that ended up on top.

AIC defeated Lindenwood 15-5 in the final, after both had made their way past some impressive opponents. Lindenwood beat New Mexico State, Dixie State, University of Alberta, Michigan, and University of British Columbia to make the final, edging Alberta 22-19 along the way. AIC had a slightly weirder two days, opening up at 8:20am with a 45-0 win over Utah Valley State, and then, because the bracket wasn't full, having to wait five hours to play their next game, a 42-0 defeat of the Midwest Thunderbirds select team.

That put the Yellow Jackets in the quarters, where they shut out Arizona, and into the semis, where finally someone scored on them. Once again, Alberta lost a close one, 19-17. And that set up the final.

In the final, AIC got a try from Elizabeth Harvey to take a 5-0 lead. Lindenwood answered to tie it, and then just before halftime, Anne-Laurence Harvey scored to give AIC the 10-5 lead.

In the second half, Lindenwood dominated possession, but could not break through the AIC defense. Finally Bridget Kahele scored to put the game away and finish it off.

Lindenwood Coach Billy Nicholas would have liked the win, but was happy to see his Lions play well.

"It was great to get back out there as our girls haven't played since November," said Ncholas. "We had six new players to Lindenwood 7s so they got a chance to work on their structure and chemistry at LVI. Our expectations were to make it pretty far into the competition and also try out some new combinations and learn things we need to work on, we hit all of those goals."

Nicholas said UBC was their strongest opponents, and in fact the Thunderbirds, fielding a U23 lineup, led 14-7 a halftime before Lindenwood stormed back to win 33-14.

"That was our best rugby on the weekend and what will continue to aim for. The team was very connected in their support and structure on attack and defense and was a massive win for us<" said the Lindenwood Coach.

For AIC, Head Coach Dimitri Efthimiou was hugely gratified by how his players stuck to it. 

"I wanted the team to be challenged, that was the point," he said. "We had a young team and we weren't sure what we had. We've had a tendency to play at the level of our opposition - if they're a scrappy team, then we are a scrappy team. But against the really good teams they played a level up. We did wel against the Midwest, but I think they would have liked some of those offloads back. Alberta was a really tough, physical team. We were maybe a little lucky."

AIC's defensive pressure produced turnovers and tries for them throughout the tournament, but especially in the final. Nicholas said he felt his Lindenwood team beat themselves, but Efthinious said it all came from very good defensive pressure. 

Leading the way for AIC were the Harvey sisters out of Canada. They produced big plays when needed, while Kayla Clark combined some snappy physicality with a good understanding of the game. Bulou Mataitoga also showed she has a good rugby head on her sholders.

For Lindenwood, 11 different players scored during the weekend in Las Vegas, but Neariah Persinger and Hannah Gauthreaux shone, and Jennese Bacon scored the winning try against Alberta with Seconds remaining.

This result was a good showing for American women's college 7s as a whole. Both programs went to Vegas with an eye toward not being intimidated, and they won as a result.

"For us to gain that experience to be in the final is invaluable," said Nicholas. "With such a young team it was the perfect recipe for us to gain experience under pressure to learn things we need to work on and get back to the drawing board. We have a long dedicated spring 7s season and looking to keep building our chemistry for upcoming tournaments."

Next up for Lindenwood is their own tournament on March 19, and then a tournament in Atlanta. They plan also to participate in both the USA Rugby Championships in Cary, NC, and the CRC women's bracket in Chester, Pa.

For AIC, it's a different road. Now operating under NCAA varsity rules, they have a limited number of competition days, and with a Varsity Rugby 7s Series running through April, the Yellow Jackets will not be able to push for a place in Cary or Chester. 

"We have some really good competition coming up," said Efthimiou. "And we are getting a lot of support from the school. We're excited to win, but we're also trying to get players to the next level."