Monday, May 07, 2007

MARFU U23 Developmental Team at Ruggerfest

Last weekend the MARFU U23 program kicked off its 2007 campaign by entering a developmental U23 team in the Washington Ruggerfest, hosted by the DC Furies.

The tournament is one of the largest spring tournaments on east coast and features three tiers of competition. The MARFU U-23 Developmental team entered the middle tier, along with Developmental teams from the DC Furies, Nova, and Beantown, and National Division II Club finalists Albany.

We worked hard to get the roster just right - to have the appropriate depth at each position, and just enough top-level experience raise everyone's level. 2005 & 2006 veterans Emily Tunney (Philadelphia Women) and Amber Benlian (Maryland Stingers) provided stellar leadership as captain and vice captain respectively, while Georgetown's Katie Welter and American University's Sherri Villa returned to the teams vastly improved from last year. Villa put in one of the strongest solo efforts at the tournament, showing speed, creativity and flair both offensively and defensively, while Welter was a rock at fullback, dangerous under the high ball and dead accurate with her open field tackles.

The remaining 18 players were all new to the program, and were identified at the MARFU U-23 LAU Round Robin Tournament.

The group gathered Friday evening for a 2 hour training session - after introductions were done we reviewed our game plan for the weekend, got a little light contact in, defined our communication system, and adjourned for the evening.

Saturday's first match was a bit rough against the DC Furies Developmental side. DC was peppered with veteran select side players, and we were still learning each others names. While everyone adjusted to a new system of play, we held the Furies to 2 tries but were not successful getting into the tryzone. After some light work on our ball retention techniques, the team met the Village Lions Saturday afternoon and turned in much improved 10-0 performance. We steadily improved throughout the day and even through each match. The players got to know each other all a little better during a team dinner in the city, and did some goal setting to improve Sunday's performance.

Sunday was set up as a "play till you lose" day. We faced the Albany Siren's at 9:00am, and were able to really stretch our legs. Albany was tough at the breakdown and very strong ball in hand, but our strength 1-22 was the difference, and we entered the semi finals after a 29-0 victory.

Our semi-final match, it turned out, was a rematch against the DC Furies developmental team. Now the the team was getting comfortable with each other, and bolstered by a very unusual coin toss, the team approached the match relaxed and focused. After an even first half, we were finally able to put players through gaps - and twice Shippensburg center Danielle Dincher and University of Delaware wing Elizabeth Walsh were able to 2 v 1 the fullback for a score. At full time the score was 19-5, an impressive turnaround against a very challenging opponent.

Our third and final game of the day and fifth of the tournament was literally a battle of youth vs experience, as we faced always dangerous, always sneaky Back in Black in the second division final. Back in Black is an over-30 touring sides, but there's nothing weak or slow about these women. With players like Nancy Fitz, Krista McFarren, Dana Creager, and more too numerous to name, it is a team that makes a habit of winning tournaments. Back and Black blew through the early rounds undefeated, and we knew we would be in for a hard contest.

Within the opening minutes hooker Sherri Villa foiled a Back in Black attacked, kicking her own poached ball ahead into the tryzone and winning the race to ground it. Back in Black answered shortly after with a try of their own, as two attackers broke free and smoothly finished with room to spare. The U23s keep the pressure up, but the ball handling and continuity skills of Back in Black proved a little too much to handle as three more tries were put in prior to half.

We started off the second half strong, with fresh legs substituted in bulk, and midway through the second half Villa executed practically a carbon copy of her first try. Flanker Lindsay Wick was tremendously effective defensively, while Tunney and Belian strung together some nice penetrating attacks at the fringe and in the midfield. Welter was again solid defensively, stopping the lone runner repeatedly, but whenever Back in Black could create the 2 v 1 they were successful in finishing. Final score 30 - 10, Back in Black victors.

The spring developmental event is a prequel to the MARFU U-23 selection camp, which will be held in Washington DC May 19-20. Training camp will take place on May 19th, while matches against NOVA A and B will take place on Sunday the 20th. Players will be selected from this venue to represent the Mid Atlantic at the U-23 National All Star Championships in Blaine Mn this June.

The selection camp is open to all age-eligibile players who are members of MARFU. For details, visit or contact Head Coach Lisa Rosen.

MARFU U-23 Dev, Ruggerfest 2007:

Allison Dolan - LaSalle University
Lori Kenuk - University of Delaware
Sherri Villa - American University
Lisa Hrunka - Shippensburg University
Ally Clements - Virginia Tech
Ashley Keen - Drexel University
Meredith Black - Virginia Tech
Janet Finely - James Madison
Elizabeth Scerbo - James River
Emily Tunney (c) - Philadelphia Women
Lindsay Wick - Brandywine Women
Julie Brown - University of Delaware
Erin Rideout - Mary Washington
Allison Myers - Philadelphia Women
Amber Benlian (vs) - Maryland Stingers
Laurie Bryan - Virginia Tech
Danielle Dincher - Shippensburg
Jeanna Beard - UMBC
Misha Heller - DC Furies
Elizabeth Walsh - University of Delaware
Sarah Foster - University of Virginia
Katie Welter - Georgetown

Manager - Deb Yates
Head Coach - Lisa Rosen
Assistant Coach - Roshna Wunderlich
Local Coordinator - Gabe Ortiz