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For the first time competing in a national 7s tournament, Clarence Picard couldn’t have asked for much more from his team.
St. Bonaventure went 3-3 for the weekend and reached the title match of the consolation bracket to finish 10th overall at the National Small College Rugby Organization Women’s National 7s Championships, held April 27-28 in Pittsburgh.
“We were really pleased with the performance overall, and I’m very proud of both our veterans and younger players for the way they represented the school and competed to the end in every match,” said Picard, head coach of the Bonnies. “I think if you compare our experience level to how we performed, it was definitely a step in the right direction.”
In pool play on Saturday, the Bonnies lost a heartbreaker in their opening match to Lee University, a championship bracket semifinalist in 2018.
Down 10-0 early, the Bonnies rallied to take a 17-15 lead late in the second half on a 90-meter sprint by junior Emily Sion, only to lose on a Lee try as time expired.
“A couple mistakes in 7s can make the difference,” Picard said. “We had talked about using the trip for experience, and those tough losses often help a team perform better in the future.”
The Bonnies bounced back to defeat Middlebury, 26-19, before losing to Simpson College, 24-10, at one point cutting a 17-0 deficit to 17-10 in the second half. Simpson eventually finished third overall.
“Simpson was certainly one of the better teams we’ve faced all season. Even though we lost, I thought we played some of our best rugby and improved throughout pool play,” Picard said.
The Bonnies beat Colorado College, 33-17, in the consolation opener Saturday afternoon, and held off the University of Findlay, 14-12, Sunday morning to reach the consolation title match, where they “just ran out of steam” in a 27-12 loss to MiraCosta College, Picard said.
“I think two months ago, Findlay’s speed would have really hurt us, but we made some great strides defensively and hung on for the win,” he said.
Sion scored 10 tries over the six games, earning all-tournament team honors on Sunday.
“On Saturday, I joked with Emily that she should make the all-tourney team but it’s pretty rare for a team in the consolation bracket to be represented,” Picard said. “But her play stands out to everyone who watches her, and I constantly receive messages or comments about how much fun she is to watch.
“It’s been a joy to see her develop as a young woman. She puts everything she has into the team. Scoring 10 tries in a tournament at this level is no small feat, and when you factor in her physicality on defense and the way she inspires her teammates, I think it was a well-deserved honor.”
Sion was named to the inaugural National Small College Rugby Organization All-American team last July for her play in 2017-18.
“To make top 10 in the nation is really special to all of us because we put a lot of time and work into this season and it showed,” Sion said. “Making the all-tourney team is awesome because I play to represent Bona’s and put so much of my heart into this sport. To be rewarded for doing something I love is really special.”
Picard said his veteran leaders — Sion, Rachel Pelsang, Erin Brockenton and Kasey Tokos — “all played significant minutes and showed our youngsters their pride in the program.”
Two of those “youngsters” — sophomores Kelly DeGrood and Amber Peralta — didn’t let the veterans down, despite their ailments.
“Kelly is a captain as a sophomore for a reason,” Picard said. “She played every minute of the tournament with the flu and aching back, and holds the team to a higher standard than even myself. And Amber came back from an ankle sprain a couple weeks ago and played a huge amount of minutes at prop, which isn’t easy.”
Other than Sion, who finished the spring season with 22 tries, DeGrood (3 tries and 11 conversions), freshman Allyson Frohock (2 tries), Pelsang (2 tries) and Tokos (1 try) scored in Pittsburgh for the Bonnies, who finished the spring 7s season 13-6.
This is the third time the women have reached the national stage. In fall 15s under former coach Dr. Tracy Schrems, the Bonnies went to the NSCRO national final four in 2011 and the NSCRO regional finals in 2014.
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