Atlantis Awesome in Girls Elite 7s at LVI
Atlantis Awesome in Girls Elite 7s at LVI
The Atlantis U18 Girls had to come back from large deficits twice to emerge winners of the Girls Elite 7s at the Las Vegas Invitational Friday.
The Atlantis team, made up mostly of players from the Maryland-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area, but bolstered by some overseas talent, fell behind 14-0 in the semifinals, and 14-0 in the final, and came back to win both times.
“On paper our team looked strong, but paper doesn’t play the game,” said team director Wayne DiMarco. The key was how the pieces fit together, and, said the coach, “the girls got along really well.”
After some pre-tournament training in Las Vegas, the players went to Red Rock Canyon for some relaxation and team bonding, and DiMarco said that was an important part of the preparation.
Then on Thursday morning they opened against a tough British Columbia Elite Youth 7s team. BC took an early lead, but the Atlantis players did what they would do all tournament long, and rallied.
“The girls played really good rugby afterwards, and showed a ton of poise and character,” enthused DiMarco.
Atlantis shut out Glendale 48-0 and Play Rugby USA 43-0 to win their pool. They met Play Rugby again on Friday in the quarterfinals, and the result was basically the same, 45-0.
Then came the semis. Now things got tough for everyone. Atavus and Nw Zealand team Tahi Kaha battled to a 21-19 Tahi Kaha victory.
Meanwhile, BC ran out to a 14-0 lead. Once again the Atlantis girls regathered and scores four straight tries to lead 24-14, and then BC scored at the end to make it 24-21.
That set up the final, and Tahi Kaha ran out to a 14-0 lead. Atlantis scored twice to reply making it 14-10, and then, finally, a try for a 17-14 lead.
“Tahi Kaha was very good, they could step and they were very smart and any space they saw they would attack and they would attack in groups,” said DiMarco. “Against those girls we were not comfortable with a 17-14 lead. They could have scored very quickly.”
Instead, though, it was Atlantis that scored to win it 22-14.
“Both teams were big, skilled, and smart,” said DiMarco. “But our girls kept with the plan. They never questioned it. They never go on each other. They wore teams down and played Atlantis 7s.”
Atlantis, of course, is the longtime touring program overseen by the Godfather of Sevens, Emile Signes, and Signes holds true to longstanding tenets of the game. Possession is key, being table to tackle is key. Atlantis did both.
Leading the way for Atlantis were two English imports, Ella Wyrwas and Ellie Kildunne, both from Hartpury College school in Gloucester. Both have played for England at the age-grade level, and their presence, said DiMarco, helped raise the level of the rest of the team. Kildunne was named the tournament MVP.
“She was special,” said DiMarco.
Captain Alex DiMarco (White Horse, Pa.) was a physical force and Emily Henrich (Orchard Park, NY) was defensively strong.
But it was the trust and the teamwork of the entire squad that made it work.
“Everyone could tackle,” said DiMarco. “So because of that we didn’t have to commit multiple players to the tackles, and mean we were organized faster and we finished the games well. When we put int he subs, the level of play stayed high.”
At the end of the final, the Tahi Kaha players were distraught. They had been in control of the game and seen it taken away. The Atlantis players saw this and immediately went to them, hugs and congratulations all around, and the squads posed together photos. The comebacks and excellent play was something, but Signes was heard to say it was that post-game outreach that made him most proud.
Atlantis Girls Elite HS Roster:
Alex DiMarco, White Horse, Pa., Co-Captain
Emily Henrich, Orchard Park, NY, Co-Captain
Kathleen Gearhart, Penn HS, Ind.
Clara Lemal-Brown, Hudson HS, Ohio
Ellie Kildunne, Hartpury College, Gloucester, England
Ella Wyrwas, Hartpury College, Gloucester, England
Maya DeWaal, Kelvin HS, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Megan Bird, Oak Creek, Wisc.
Alie Ramage, Morris HS, NJ
Alex Pipkin, North Bay, Md.
Dex Taylor, San Diego, Calif.