Tag: Rugby 7s

Stephanie Brown, Florida Rugby High Performance Women's Rugby Chosen for USA Olympic TrainingTryout Camp - Road to Rio

Stephanie Browne Invited to USA Olympic Training\Tryout Camp

It is with great enthusiasm the Florida Rugby Union and 7’s High Performance Program wish Stephanie Browne the best of luck on her invitation to the Rugby Women’s 7s Academy Camp June 15-June 19 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.

The 2016 USA Women’s Olympic team will be chosen from this camp and we look forward to Stephanie performing like she did in Las Vegas Invitations against France & Japan.  Those efforts earned her this opportunity and the FRU HPP program will continue to provide venues like this for our Florida rugby athletes to showcase their abilities.

Stephanie Brown, Florida Rugby High Performance Women's Rugby Chosen for USA Olympic TrainingTryout Camp - Road to Rio
Good Luck Stephanie!
Steve Braunstein
Director of Florida 7’s
Assistant Coach of HPP

GULF COAST 7S

Bay Area Pelicans is hosting Gulf Coast 7s May 21st, 2016 at the Lakewood Sports Complex, 2001 Country Club Way S., St. Petersburg, FL 33712.

Includes: Men’s, Women’s and U19 Open Division.
Registration deadline May 19th. Click here for details on how to register.

 

Fee for Men’s team $200
Fee for Women’s team $150
Fee for U19’s $10

St Pete 7s

Tournament Location – http://stpeteparksrec.org/lakewood-soccer.html

Post Tournament Social – www.undertowbeachbar.com
Any Questions contact Mark Bongo- Rugbybongo@gmail.com

Surfin’ 7s Tournament Info

Saturday, June 4, 2016, 10 a.m. onwardsPine Trails Park, 10555 Trails End, Parkland, FL 33076

$250 for senior teams, $150 for high school

10% early discount if paid by May 21

As a bit of a wrinkle, we’re not having posts this year! Going to be similar to Beerfoot, but with 5-point and 7-point zones instead. Park won’t let us dig holes, so giving this a shot.

We will also be hosting USA South vs. Cayman Islands in an international 15s friendly at 5 p.m.

Summer 7s Schedule

As the warming weather suggests, summer is closer, which means the summer 7s tournaments are just around the corner! Here is the preliminary schedule – take note and plan ahead!

May 14 – Sunshine State 7s – Brian Piccolo Park – Broward

May 21 – Gulf Coast 7s – Lakewood Soccer Complex – St. Petersburg

June 4 – Surfin 7’s -Parkland

June 18 – Fiji 7s – Miami (Qualifying Tournament)

June 25 – Todd Miller 7s – Orlando (Qualifying Tournament)

July 9 – Tampa Krewe – Tampa (Qualifying Tournament)

July 23 – Souths (location TBA). Hosted by Carolinas.

Aug 6 – Beerfoot – Ft Myers (pending approval)

Florida Rugby Union Announces Las Vegas Invitational Selections

Article by Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

On the men’s side, the battle for the 12 exclusive spots came down to the wire, but head coach Ronnie Suarez is confident that this year’s team has what it takes to make a significant splash in Vegas. With players from both the college and men’s ranks, it’s clear the overall talent level across the state has improved dramatically from just a year ago.

Representing FRU in Las Vegas will be:

  • Joe DiGregorio – Brevard 
  • Damian Clemente – Miami RFC
  • Jeffrey Herron – Tampa Krewe
  • Jonathan Halter – Gainesville  
  • Adrian Salazar – Miami RFC
  • Mateo Velazquez – Florida International University (FIU)
  • Alex Vinkavich – Miami Tridents
  • Jude Kermundu – Naples 
  • Nick Daniel – Florida International University (FIU)
  • Hank May – Gainesville
  • Tyler Piggot – Naples  
  • Matthew Coore – Indian River

In addition, the six non-traveling reserves for the men’s side include:

  • Isaac Leite – University of Florida (UF)
  • Adrian White – Fort Lauderdale 
  • Paul Diaz – Orlando 
  • Dewayne Parks Jr. – Brevard  
  • Julius Fletcher – Treasure Coast 
  • Barrington McNutt – Florida International University (FIU)

The FRU is also pleased to announce the women’s side that looks to shock a stacked pool of international sides in Vegas. Representing Florida for the women are:

  • Leandria Ates – FIU Womens Rugby 
  • Ashley Bengston – Ft. Miami Womens Rugby
  • Stephanie Browne – Phoenix Rugby 7s
  • Cassidy Davis – Orlando Womens Rugby
  • Jacqueline Edge – UCF Womens Rugby
  • Agnes Fuerst – UCF Womens Rugby
  • Vivian Junger Silveira – Ft. Miami Womens Rugby
  • Shannon Steele – Orlando Womens Rugby
  • Corntey Kuehl – UCF Womens Rugby
  • Zoe Sanchez-O’Neill – Orlando Womens Rugby
  • Jesenia Torres – Orlando Womens Rugby
  • Tatum Walker – Ft. Miami Womens Rugby

Jessica Warner of UCF and Lindsey Koren of UF Womens Rugby were selected to play but are unavailable due to injury.

Congratulations to all the players selected to represent Florida rugby at the LVI. We look forward to watching you put your talent on display at the top rugby sevens competition in the United States.

Florida 7s Development Camps

By Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

When it comes to rugby in the United States, there isn’t a bigger event than the Las Vegas Invitational. North America’s largest rugby tournament takes place right alongside the USA Sevens invitational rugby tournament that features domestic stars like Carlin Isles and Perry Baker as well as international legends like New Zealand’s D.J. Forbes, England’s Tom Mitchell and South Africa’s Cecil Afrika.

While many established stars will be on display, Vegas is also a place where aspiring ruggers can catch the eye of national team scouts and coaches. It’s for that reason that Ronnie Suarez, Steve Braunstein, Evan Haigh and the rest of the coaches, volunteers and staff from the Florida Rugby Union have collaborated to put together the best men’s and women’s squads to represent The Sunshine State in March.

After a competitive showing at last year’s event where they took home wins over Arizona Olympic Development Academy and Utah ODA, the coaches went back to the drawing board to formulate a plan that addressed the team’s weaknesses, which mostly surrounded the art form of passing. So far, the results are positive.

“After our LVI review of last year, we looked as what we needed to do and we decided to really push the fundamentals individually to each club team through the players involved in the program,” said Suarez. “The proof was in the past summer 7’s, as not only was it the best it had been in a long time but also the teams primarily consisted of two or three players involved in the FRU 7’s RDA. Those players coming back had not only improved individually but had also brought in other teammates who had developed their skills as well.”

Unlike last year where getting consistent numbers at the squad’s training sessions in Sebastian were a struggle, the turnout has been terrific for both the men’s and women’s sides this year. At a recent training session earlier this month, 41 men and 30 women battled muddy pitches and competed hard for coveted spots on their respective teams.

“The men’s pool has grown, which is making selections difficult,” said Braunstein, the FRU 7’s director. “It’s a nice problem to have one side but trying to make sure we make the right picks is stressful. The women’s pool is surprisingly large for this first year and the same challenge is being presented.”

The overall player pool includes representatives from 15 club teams as well as two Rugby League teams. On the men’s side, seven players have already been selected, including Damian Clemente (Miami RFC), Jonathan Halter (Gainesville), Jeffrey ‘Alaska’ Herron (Tampa Krewe) and Mateo Velazquez (Florida Internation University). Suarez has also been impressed by Jude Kermundu (Naples), Matt Coore (Indian River) and Hank May (Gainesville), who have made great strides over the past year.

On the women’s side, Haigh, Sandi Felke and Mark Bongo have been tasked with putting together the FRU’s first LVI women’s squad—a task that’s much easier said than done. Luckily, the numbers have continually improved at the Sebastian training sessions and there is a ton of optimism surrounding the program.

Though the Sunshine State doesn’t receive as much national recognition as it may deserve, the number of Florida natives who came up through the FRU 7’s program may change that. The brightest star is obviously national team speedster Perry Baker, but he’s not the only name worth mentioning. Kris Thomas has taken off as a member of the women’s national 7’s team, Peter Malcolm (Taravella High School/Wheeling Jesuit University) is making waves on the USA Falcons squad and Ashaunte Stroman (FIU) is playing both 15’s and 7’s for the USA Collegiate All-American squad.

Dana Meschisi (Florida State University), Victoria Folayan (Poinciana High School), Jessica Wooden (University of Florida) and Kim Semiglia (Weston) are all in the national mix at camps and training squads.

For both the men’s and women’s FRU 7’s teams, Vegas represents the chance to not only further individual interests but the state’s as a whole. As Florida rugby gains more attention on a national scale, the opportunities for scholarships, pro contracts and recruiting will only increase. With only one more training session in February, the competition for a roster spot is as tight as ever as the race to Vegas inches closer.

Ronnie Suarez: A Bright Coaching Star in the Sunshine State

By Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

A great coach can turn an ordinary team into something special. And in the case of Ronnie Suarez, that’s exactly what he’s doing across the state of Florida.

Whether he is on the sidelines as the head coach of the Florida International University men’s rugby club or cultivating talent as the head coach of the Florida Rugby Union High Performance Sevens team, Suarez’s dedication and passion for the game has led to impressive results.

The well-traveled former Marine grew up around the game, as his aunt played for the Old Blue women’s team in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Suarez’s playing career included stops with North County Gurkhas and OMBAC, with his first official action coming in 1995 in Fremantle, Australia as a member of the Palmyra RFC. After moving to Miami in 1998, Suarez began playing for Miami RFC until he decided to make the natural transition from player to coach.

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Ronnie Suarez in coach mode
A self-described technical thinker who hails from a family full of successful sports coaches, Suarez credits both his mother and his military experience as major influences on his approach to coaching the often-misunderstood game of rugby.

“The discipline and hard work ethic is definitely my mom’s doing,” he said. “She was a tough, single mother who raised her kids to be the same way. The Marine corps gave me my never say die, never less than 100 percent respect and honor attitude.”

Of course, coaching soccer or baseball is one thing, but coaching rugby is an entirely different animal. Luckily, Suarez has been able to pick the brains of some of the top coaches around the globe to help shape his philosophies.

“I went to New Zealand and spent 10 days with City RFC in Whangarei watching their coaches and how they taught the players more than they coached. It really changed my thought process on how to coach the game,” Suarez explained. “There are a lot of coaches that I look up to and have helped shape me as well like Pierre Villepreux and Mike Luke.”

Suarez also credits Boca RFC coach Frank Tito as a major influence and says he could not have done a lot without his mentor’s guidance.

As a man who wears many hats, Suarez is intimately familiar with the challenges of coaching for both FIU and the FRU High Performance Sevens team. Interestingly, the challenges differ quite a bit between the two programs.

“In my current setup as head coach of the FRU Sevens, my major challenge is getting coaches behind the program and encouraging their players to try it out,” Suarez said. “With FIU, changing the perception of rugby to administrators who have no idea about the sport is pretty hard. Our own president and athletic department didn’t know FIU Rugby existed.”

Despite the widespread challenges of culture, administration, attitudes toward the sport and financial support, Suarez continues to charge ahead and establish himself as one of the most successful and influential members of the Florida rugby community. He recently led FIU to an undefeated season that culminated in a thrilling victory at the SIRC Championship that may finally put FIU Rugby on the national radar.

“Ronnie is a competitive and laser-focused coach that has been able to assemble a great team by knowing his players’ strengths and weaknesses,” said FIU senior standout Jose Laphitzondo. “Under him, the team had the mission to make it to nationals. The team understood that under a common objective every tackle, sprint and burpee had a purpose so the team pushed each other towards that goal.”

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Ronnie Suarez with the FIU Men’s team
However, it’s Suarez’s work with the FRU HP Sevens program that has a potentially more profound effect. With rugby sevens gaining popularity based on the success of the U.S. Eagles, there’s a great opportunity for the game to catch on and attract more attention from television networks and crossover athletes.

For Suarez, the FRU HP Sevens program is the perfect gateway for the state’s top rugby athletes to get a chance to represent their country on an international stage. One of Suarez’s goals is to get the Florida HP Sevens program recognized as an Olympic Development Academy, which would give every player in the state the opportunity to get a chance to be chosen for the USA Eagles Olympic Pathway.

“Growing our program now and getting it recognized is something we are in the process of doing, but participation numbers are what really make and break us, so getting those numbers up is key.”

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Ronnie Suarez advising Jacksonville Women’s player
Additionally, Suarez’s long list of goals includes gaining varsity status for both the men’s and women’s rugby teams at FIU as well as getting in the elite coaches group for sevens in the U.S.

As someone who never settles for less than perfection, Suarez certainly isn’t someone you want to bet against. No matter if he’s running an extra conditioning session with his FIU team or preparing to take on Mexico with the FRU HP Sevens squad, Suarez is a man whose intense preparation and selfless dedication will help grow the game of rugby not only in Florida but across the United States.

“If the clubs, officers and players of Florida ask themselves ‘How to help grow the game?’ and follow through with it, we will see Florida rugby rise to where it should have been a long time ago. But it starts with that question: How may we help grow the game?”

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Ronnie Suarez with 2015 FRU HP Sevens Squad

Pelican Rugby Getting Back on the Map at Gulf Coast 7s

2014-07-12 GC7s champs cropped

By Stephen Sheehan, FRU Media Intern

For years, the Gulf Coast 7s Tournament was a staple of the Florida 7s circuit. The tournament’s host, the Pelican Rugby Club, put on strong showings before struggling in recent years.

But after winning the tournament last weekend, the future looks bright for Pelican RFC.

Tour Director Jim Orandash, who took over coaching the side in October, couldn’t have been more pleased with the way the tournament turned out.

“Last year we didn’t even have a 7s team,” he said. “We wanted to re-establish the Gulf Coast 7s and bring the tournament back to St. Petersburg.”

The tournament featured five women’s teams and nine men’s teams, as several of the men’s clubs could not participate at the last minute. Orlando won the women’s division and “played their hearts out” according to Orandash.

The former Division III football player is just one of many passionate members of the Florida rugby community, and it’s easy to see why the Pelicans are back on the right track. Orandash was introduced to rugby after college and latched on with the Pelicans in 1992 before shifting to coaching in the late 90s. He spent some time developing the program at Eckerd College before moving on to coach Tampa Krewe in both 7s and 15s before returning home to the Pelicans.

With the team down to just six players when Orandash was asked to turn things around, and while the journey is far from complete, the club’s victory at Gulf Coast 7s was certainly a noticeable step in the right direction.

The Pelicans went 5-1 on the weekend, with their only loss coming to the USF Memorial All-Star team that they ended up facing in the finals.

“The finals came down to the wire,” Orandash said. “In the last seconds of the game they were going to score but we were fortunate to get a knock-on about five meters outside of the try zone. It was a hard-fought match.”

With a talented group of athletes and a strong administrative core, the Pelicans are trending in the right direction as they look to get back to playing D-II rugby.

Besides his own squad, Orandash singled out the Indian River club as one that made a strong impression on the crowd.

“They’ve been in a rebuilding mode but they were tough,” Orandash said. “The score was 0-0 at half. We went on to win handily but they came out and played their hearts out.”

For a self-described rugby junkie who has experience both as a player, coach and administrator, Orandash is excited more than ever to be part of growing the game from within the Sunshine State.

He highlighted the great work done by Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca to establish strong youth programs and noted that both Tampa Krewe and Sarasota are looking to follow suit. The sport should only gain more traction with the 2016 Summer Olympics, when rugby 7s will make its return to the world’s premier sports display.

“Once we get the youth involved, we’ll be able to make our club stronger and more money will come into the state,” Orandash said. “The FRU and USA Rugby are really making a difference in making the sport more structured. I think rugby is really going to explode in the next five years.”

Florida Burn Turn up The Heat at Fiji 7s

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Coaching and playing 7s has been the focus of Brian Richardson’s life. For the past 10 years, he’s played and coached for Daytona Beach Rugby, leading the team to three consecutive top-10 finishes from 2006-2008, including a plate championship over the Super League Chicago Lions in 2008 and a bowl championship over Super League OMBAC in 2012. 

Despite Daytona’s frequent success, the club saw its captain retire, co-captain move to Denver and many of the players play Rugby League for the Central Florida Warriors during the summer. So with the rugby desire still burning and many players from around the state still looking to play 7s this summer, Richardson, the Florida Director of 7s, embarked on a quest to put together a competitive 7s squad that will try to qualify for nationals.

Of course, with Florida’s official color being orange, he named the team the Florida Burn and the early results have been promising.

The Burn, who mostly consist of players who Richardson coached from Daytona, recently won the Fiji 7s tournament in Miami a few weeks ago. They took down a physical Fort Lauderdale squad that had a strong showing itself in Miami.

While many clubs benefit from continuity and familiarity, the Burn aren’t as lucky. 

“Most of the players like this have been strong players for their own club teams and sometimes have a hard time deferring to players with better skills in a certain area,” Richardson said. “I feel I have developed a simple system that caters to players’ strengths and hides their weaknesses.”

One of the biggest challenges is actually finding enough players to travel. Considering the team typically shows up early for tournaments to practice and work on game plans, it’s impressive that the Burn are able to play at such a high level. 

Despite the uncanny practice schedule (or lack thereof), the Burn put on a sensational showing in Miami. Richardson said the team started with just seven players in the first game and made zero mistakes against Miami in the first half before the rest of the team showed up. He was happy with the Burn’s strong start against Fort Lauderdale in the third pool game before the ball took some bad bounces and the team lost its composure.

Luckily, the Burn got their act together against Orlando, going up 24-0 before conceding two late tries. The win set up a rematch against Fort Lauderdale, who won a thrilling sudden-death semifinal game over Boca to get to the championship.

Even though the starting seven logged a ton of minutes on the day, they torched Fort Lauderdale by a score of 33-0.

“We executed in all areas, even set pieces and structures where we did not have lots of practice,” Richardson said. 

A few players stood out in Miami, including captain and lead recruiter Jeff “Moose” Brill from Krewe and Adrian Salazar, who captained the squad in Miami.

“He had a very strong game from tight head, winning battles in the scrum, running down a breakaway and forcing a turnover in the try zone,” Richardson said of Salazar. “When your tight head can lead a stat sheet, you will win a lot of games. It really was a team win and the players became comfortable in their roles, embraced their roles and excelled in their roles.”

The Burn hope to build on their cup championship in West Palm this Saturday at Surfin 7s. The team will debut their uniforms this weekend and enter the tournament battle-tested. 

“We should have a deeper roster and will put aside an overtime semifinal loss to Orlando at Indian River and a semifinal loss vs. USF at Todd Miller,” Richardson said. “It’s cliché to say those losses hardened us, but for a team that thinks they should win, to lose but come back stronger is a lesson learned not to take anything for granted in 7s.”

If the Burn can outright win the Florida Cup at Surfin 7s, they can qualify for New Orleans where they could win the first ever Southern Conference Championship. If they win the SCC, they would fly to Seattle three weeks later, but finding the funds is a challenge. 

Luckily for the Burn, Richardson is a well-established rugby pillar not only in Florida but around the United States. He started playing for UCF in grad school after playing four years of Division III football. His playing experience includes stops at the Florida Select Side, South All-Star 7s team, Orlando Rugby and Daytona. He also has been involved as a coach and administrator and is proud to have had six players over the years invited to try out for the Eagles 7s pool team. 

As the Florida Director of 7s, Richardson organizes and schedules tournaments for the summer 7s season. He hopes to add a High Performance 7s team that will play year-round. Growing the game is one of his main goals, with the Burn being a prime example. 

“The goal is to get players from not just the Burn from Florida on Team USA and to host more high-level 7s tournaments in Florida.”

Orlando RFC Off to Hot Start This Summer

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By Stephen Sheehan, FRU Media Intern

With nearby UCF winning back-to-back D1-AA championships in 15s, the city of Orlando has become a rugby haven of sorts. However, the Golden Knights aren’t the only successful rugby club to emerge from the area, as the Orlando RFC continues to put itself on the map.

Established in 1970, the Orlando RFC competes in the USARFU South Division II and Division III. Orlando also features the Lady Griffins, who were established in the fall of 2005. A staple in the local community, Orlando RFC is active in charitable organizations and hosts many different events and socials.

Daniel Gordon and Evan Haigh serve as co-coaches. Gordon coached Orlando’s 7s squad last summer before Haigh joined this summer. So far, the results have been fantastic.

The club claimed the men’s division title at the Todd Miller 7s in Orlando just two weeks ago, putting on a great show for their home crowd.

“I was really happy with our defense and the players’ commitment in every game,” said Haigh.

According to Haigh, the team trains twice a week with a focus on 7s game awareness and decision making. The early results have been promising, including a huge win over UCF at the tournament.

“Our standout game was the dominant win against UCF in the semi final,” Haigh said. “Sam Nelson scored three fantastic tries in that game.”

While Orlando’s success at Todd Miller 7s was certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“Our weakness was the ability to focus throughout the tournament,” Haigh said. “We are still learning how to play 7s, so there are lots of things we can improve on.”

Ironically, Orlando was once the powerhouse 7s club in the state. The team is looking to build a strong and balanced club in order to get back to that mantle of Florida’s premier 7s club, Haigh said.

Helping Haigh in that quest are several key players, including captain Will Doherty and the speedy Daniel Forshee. Those players, along with 15s head coach Eugene Louw stand out as three impact members of the 44-year-old rugby club.

Orlando is lucky to have a coach with Haigh’s experience. He has played for several clubs across the world, including the ACT Brumbies U19s, Canberra Vikings, Currie RFC in Scotland, Darlington RFC in England, OMBAC in San Diego and Seattle OPSB.

His coaching resume also includes several high-end stops. Haigh coaches the Bermuda Mens 7s team at the 2013 NACRA 7s Tournament and also served as a coach at the USA Rugby Academy for both the men’s and women’s teams.

With a strong coaching staff, a dedicated core group of players and a hunger to reestablish themselves as a great 7s team, Orlando RFC has a clear direction for the summer. Earning the championship at Todd Miller 7s is simply the first step in what promises to be an exciting summer of 7s rugby.