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Sacred Heart Survives Shark Attack 7s

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Sacred Heart Survives Shark Attack 7s

Trophy time for the Pioneers. Alex Goff photo.

Sacred Heart put together all the pieces of the puzzle to win the Shawk Attack 7s Sunday in Long Island.

Hosted by LIU, the Shark Attack 7s was the opening salvo in what is expected to be an annual showcase for NIRA rugby 7s. 

The tournament kicked off with AIC taking on the hosts. Sparked by some solid defensive work from Sara Doyle and Annekkia Ritter-Truxal, and with Talimaia Fuala'au and Taylie-Earvin Atuaia attacking effectively, AIC held on 14-12.

RJ Scott was a dangerous attacker for LIU and scored a key try.

Following on that, Sacred Heart won big over New Haven. Led by the playmaking of Alyssa Cunningham and the powerful running and finishing of Fabiola Millien-Fausten SHU won 43-0.

Cunningham was linked nicely with Makena Wright to lead SHU over LIU 28-12 while AIC  saw Aifric Ní Ghibne and Venisa Sanft help torch UNH.

So really that set up two final game previews. At 0-2 LIO and New Haven would be playing for third later in the day. LIU won comfortable, with Scott, Sohpia Gaddis, and Esme Heater leading the way. For the preview of the final, the game ended with some questions.

AIC won, holding off a determined SHU, but it was a question of which playmaker would return. Cunningham had to leave at halftime and her absense seemed to take some of the wind out of Sacred Heart's sails.

Meanwhile, Ní Ghibne also had to leave the field—what would he potential abensen do?

As it was, in the 3rd-4th game New Haven produced their most improved performance of the day with some key setup plays from Sydney Dela Cruz and some good contributions from their freshmen and the speedy Amanee Saucier—who is a player to watch. LIU won, however, inspired partly by the recognition of their two graduating seniors, Heater and Arianne Jones. Both scored—Jones thundering in from long range producing the cheer of the day.

Heater, who has played with Chicago North Shore in summer 7s, was outstanding.

In the final, Ní Ghibne did not return, but Cunningham, who had been dealing with discomfort all day, took the field. What she did in that first half was nothing short of amazing, ghosting through tiny gaps to set up her teammates and in general controlling the space.

In one sequence, Cunningham had the ball deep in how own 22. She sidestepped back and forth until the AIC defenders were thoroughly flummoxed, and then set off on attack, putting a teammate free down the line. A brilliant, try-saving tackle from AIC's Miller halted the attack, but only briefly as a penalty led to Millien-Faustin going over.

AIC were overwhelmed 24-0.

But AIC did learn they had garnered a spot at the CRAA Premier 7s in Houston, as have Sacred Heart. Cunningham was named the tournament MVP.

The tournament itself, while small in its opening season, featured a musical artist after the final whistle and also featured interviews with coaches and LIU AD Bill Martinov (interviews conducted by GRR Editor Alex Goff) which were shown on ESPN+ (along with the games of course) and hard by the fans in attendance, also.