This year the girls travelled to Nevada for spring break to compete in and watch the Las Vegas Invitiationals! Thanks to freshman Vicky Whydell who took the time to blog about their time there!
Rise and shine, Ann Arbor! The UMWRFC travelers were all up and ready to go at 6:30am to make the journey to the transit center and then the airport. After a little bit of a delay with our bus (which was fine, but some of us were mad) and breakfast at McDonald's, the team was airborne and en route to LAS VEGAS! We arrived to warm sunshine and clear skies - nothing like snowy Michigan! - and kicked off the fun with a team meal at In-N-Out Burger. After checking into our massive Airbnb, we cooked up a Mexican feast and spent the night relaxing in the hot tub - once we worked out how to turn it on, anyway!
Day 1 in Vegas began early for those of us suffering from a bit of jet lag, but at least it meant we got a head start on making (and eating!) pancakes for breakfast. After stocking up on snacks, we ventured out for a fun day of team bonding and hiking at Red Rock Canyon. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was stunning! We (accidentally) split up and spent hours scaling mountainsides and taking on tough desert trails but all felt great after the workout and couldn't wait to get to our super healthy team lunch afterwards. We chilled at the house for a bit, then reconvened for a very high quality Microsoft Paint strategy session and a light practice session in the local school car park to work on our new defense plays. The evening was spent devouring a pasta dinner and watching the Sao Paolo women's sevens series - we were all ready to make a big impact at the Las Vegas Invitational the next day!
We were (almost, except for one unfortunate case of food poisoning) all up and raring to go bright and early for pool play at LVIs on Thursday! Our first game at 8:40am was a tough 0-36 loss to the eventual Plate winners - Nation Sports from Québec, Canada. The tough competition only motivated us to come into the next game with the pride, power, and intensity that defines Michigan Women's Rugby! We took on Utah State Blue and emerged victorious by a score of 15-5. Our final pool match was against the University of Wyoming which we also won, 26-0! The rally to win the last two matches meant that we qualified second in our pool for Friday's elimination rounds and were in with a shot at the Cup! After recovery showers and laundry, the team, coaches, and fans/parents headed to the Las Vegas Strip for a delicious meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. Dinner was cut a little short as we all raced over to the Fremont Street Experience to catch the opening ceremony and Parade of Nations for the HSBC World Sevens series - we arrived mid-parade, and some of us (accidentally-on-purpose) ended up IN it! Starstruck for a moment, we quickly jumped right in and took photos with the legendary All Blacks from New Zealand, the speedy South African "Blitzboks", and our home favourite USA Eagles. Friday was sure to be the best day yet, with our LVIs finishing up but the international men's sevens just beginning - we couldn't wait to see our new friends Madison Hughes and Perry Baker in action!
Back at Heritage Park nice and early, we were set for our Cup quarterfinal match against Lindenwood, who we were already planning to visit for their home tournament later in March! The match proved to be a very tough contest, with Lindenwood taking it 29-0, but we weren't done - after a couple of hours to rest, we were up against the Midwest Thunderbirds in the Plate semifinal. Despite being our biggest challenge yet, the Thunderbirds were held to a tight 7-7 score line at the half. Despite the Wolverines giving absolutely everything on the pitch, there was no stopping a speedy outside breakaway late in the second half that won the match for our opponents, 12-7. Despite the results, we were very happy with our improvement over the course of the two days of the tournament and left our home-away-from-home, Field #8, looking forward to getting back to business in Michigan after Spring Break! However, in Vegas, the fun was only just beginning - after an entertaining ice pool recovery session and lunch, we all piled over to Sam Boyd Stadium for the opening day pool play of the World Sevens. We raced through rush hour traffic and managed to make it in time to see the last 45 seconds of a USA victory over Wales The atmosphere was brilliant - there was a live bagpiper rooting for Scotland, a legion of Fijian fans, crazily dressed Canadians, and loudly singing English supporters - and the rugby was thrilling! Every match was lightning fast, full of steppy fake runs and skillful passes, and great for us to watch and learn from. After an intense 26-26 tie between Canada and the USA, and the final match of the night (a rivalry as old as the sport - England vs. Scotland), we left in search of the iconic fountains at the Bellagio and ice cream on the Strip. We then split up, with one group heading home via the store for a snack run, and the other to a local tattoo parlour for some UMWRFC-inspired ink!
After a relaxed start to the day, we decked ourselves out in Michigan/USA/England gear and ventured back to Sam Boyd for more of the World Sevens. We couldn't have asked for better weather for a day of watching rugby; the sun was out, but occasional clouds and a cool breeze made perfect spectator conditions - through the wind did prove to be a challenge for the kickers down on the pitch! We were sat next to crazy French fans and rowdy Australians and were seemingly surrounded by Fijian flags and musicians, but we made more noise than all of them when USA took to the field to play South Africa! Though they didn't beat the Blitzboks, the Eagles still qualified to play for the Cup, and beat Kenya in the quarterfinal! We were also treated to a surprisingly early clash of the titans, as South Africa won against New Zealand in their Cup quarterfinal. Sunday was sure to be a treat! We all packed up our bags and dropped off the first half of the team at the airport after the last quarterfinal matches; the week really flew by, and no one wanted to leave!
None of us wanted to think about our week in Vegas coming to an end, but were more excited for the elimination rounds of the World Sevens! Before the day's matches started, we took a walk around the fan plaza at Sam Boyd where we did some last-minute shopping, as well as demonstrated proper scrum sled technique to some Rhino Rugby representatives! We were lucky enough to snag seats in Row 7 and were treated to some fantastic rugby from both men and women, with the only slight downside to the day being a brief spell of rain midway through the day! The clouds had all cleared in time for USA vs. Fiji in the Cup semifinal, which was tightly contested, but ended with Fiji professing to the Cup Final to take on Australia, and setting up a USA vs. RSA rematch in the fight for third place. Though our unofficial betting pool unanimously predicted an Eagles victory, the South African speedsters were just too much, and America ended up taking home 4th place. Wales and Samoa were the respective Bowl and Shield winners, as the best of the rest (from the second playoff bracket with the losers of the Cup quarterfinals), New Zealand took the Plate, and Fiji emerged victorious from the 20-minute Cup final, beating Australia by a score of 21-15. We joined the crowd and jumped on to the field to celebrate with the Fijians after their victory (and to take a cool team photo)! Covered in confetti, we headed off to the Lotus of Siam for an amazing Thai dinner, then killed a few hours on the Strip - some went shopping for souvenirs, and some answered the true Vegas calling by gambling at the Planet Hollywood casino. We all made it back to the airport with minimal police interference, returned our cars, checked our bags, and officially ended our awesome adventure in Las Vegas. We all had a fantastic time, and definitely didn't want to get on our redeye flight back to classes on Monday!
We played, we watched, and we loved every second of #UMWRFCtakesVegas
Same again next year?!