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Massive Panther Academy Presence at Tropical 7s

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Massive Panther Academy Presence at Tropical 7s

The U16 Girls won it all.

It was a massive weekend for the Panther Rugby Academy at Tropical 7s.>>

Panthers Girls Win Two Brackets

The Lady Panthers continue their winning ways in Tampa. For the second year running the U14 Lady Panthers took the U14 Title and this year they were joined by their U16 counterparts who took the U16 Elite title. The U14s defeated a very strong Lady Hawkeye squad in the Semis and then won a revenge match vs. always tough Upright Rugby (Canada) in the Finals. Several of the U16 Elite ladies have won three events on the spin having taken SLC in 2023 sandwiched between their two Tropical victories.

U14 championship team was led by captain Anna Eversole, whose calm and smart play was a higjlight. In addition to Eversole, Ilikea Kalama and Kesa Lomu were standouts for their defensive power, breakaway ability in the attack, and fitness level allowing them to play major minutes throughout the weekend. With the U16 Elite, captain Tewairua Kalama kept the energy up. Ariane Moea'i and Lilly DeSoto were two among numerous standouts with this group; they were finishers and played consistently good defense. The other Lady Panther sides (four more teams in total) competed well.

Panther U23 Men

The Men's U23 Open Division was taken by a strong side led by Coach Jim Wiseman. Wiseman's squad relied heavily on his UNCW team that filled 10 of his roster spots, while three of the four other spots were filled by players he had coached at the high school level when they played for him at Cape Fear.

"We were at Tropical last year with some of our Cape Fear players playing for the Panthers when we discussed bringing a Wilmington area team down," Wiseman said. "The Panther Academy has been so open to us we jumped at the chance to play for them, and representing the USA South brand was something all our players were excited to do."

UNCW team President Marshall Wiseman organized the squad to bring down to Tampa. The team went through pool play 5-0 and then took down Montauk in the final 19-7. The U23s success came from the entire team playing a gritty, stingy defense coupled with an explosive offense that found them outscoring their opponents 173-38 on the weekend with the lion's share of the scoring coming from center Carey Cortes and winger Zay Arrington. The U23 Elite faced tough competition in a tournament that saw Wheeling University as the tournament winners.

Panther U18 Boys

The U18s Panthers’ sides were led by their young Open Red team that finished the tournament 5-1 and ended runners-up to a very strong TOA team. This promising young group featured some of the current 2023 National 7s Champions and was led by the University of Tennessee Coach Steven Harris.

“The chemistry of this team started the moment they hit the ground in Tampa, and it carried us through to the finals,” said Harris. The U18 Blue finished the weekend 4-2 after losing to PRA Red in the semifinals to finish fourth in this highly competitive division. Panthers U18 Elite side had a mixed bag in arguably the toughest field, going 3-3 for the weekend and losing in the plate final to an energized Jamaica side. 

Panther U16 Boys

Both U16s Panther open sides finished pool play at 3-1 but because of the new format, both sides could not compete for the Championship. Both sides finished the weekend with a 4-2 record, taking 6th and 7th place. The U16 Elite side started slow and despite very uncharacteristic poor pool play, the team lost the Plate final by a try to the Tampa Bay Stingrays. Zach Cullen, from the Charlotte Tigers, led the Elite side, scoring at least one try in all six matches.

Panthers’ Red and Blue sides represented the Academy well in the U14 category. The Panthers Blue side, coached by Tom Brennan (Sumner County Rugby), took third place, showing the Panther competitive pipeline is in good shape for the future.

Panther Cubs

For the first time in its history, the PRA entered a U12s Co-Ed side finishing third overall in the U12s category. The U12 side, coached by Colin Heath, Western County Force, was an exciting team to watch in a category that keeps growing and attracting more players to the game. This young side had a slow start, losing their first two before taking five in a row for third place.