Stars Rugby 7s inaugural tour took place in 2014 at the Las Vegas Invitational featuring players from the USA, Canada and Australia. One of those first players hailed from the newest varsity women's collegiate program at Lindenwood University and Amanda Divich (nee Martin) will once again be sporting the Stars #10 jersey taking on her alma mater in the first Stars Rugby XVs vs LU clash. Since that first tour Divich has suited up & captained the Stars Rugby 7s side in Tobago (2014) and Las Vegas (2015) and led her LU Lions side in D1 & D1 Elite 15s as well as USA Rugby 7s Nationals and the Collegiate Rugby Championship.
Divich was the first of many Lions to represent the program with Stars -- in 2015 in Las Vegas Georgia Page (Stars #66), Jolene Steibel (#67) and Anne Marie Reed (#71) and made their Stars debuts; of that trio Steibel competed again with the Stars in the 2015 Calgary Stampede 7s tournament, Page spent time with the team at the 2015 Byron Bay 7s & Central Coast 7s in Australia, and Reed matriculated at LU in the fall of 2016 and will suit up for the Lions against the Stars this weekend. Sierra (SiSi) Gribble (#82) came to the Stars on that same Stampede 7s tour in 2015, then hailing from Sacramento State and transferring to LU for fall 2015. LU alumnae Morgan Crowell and Annalise Evans are the newest Lions to join the Stars program playing prop and #8 against their former team.
The tradition and growth of the Stars and LU programs have been long intertwined with players, coaches and staff from both teams having spent time at the American Rugby Pro Training Center camps (players Cyndi Campbell and Abby Smith of this Stars roster, Nene Persinger, Hannah Gauthreaux and MacKenzie Hawkins of LU, Stars Coach Anna Kunkel, LU Coach Billy Nicholas, and Stars Director Liz Entwhistle) and with many of the Lions representing with Atlantis in Tobago and Las Vegas against the Stars. The teams also share lineage with the Old Blue Women's 7s program -- LU Coach Nicholas led Old Blue to the USA Rugby 7s National Championship in 2014 where they fell to the San Diego Surfers with Stars and Lions both on the squad. Stars players including Kaitlyn (KB) Broughton (#34), Tiana Granby (#56), Corinne Heavner (#48), Phaidra Knight (#3), Shamira Robles (#54), Amy Verdonik (#92) have come to/from the Old Blue ranks the past 3 summers.
This year's Stars 15s roster features several new names with many players coming to the team from Coach Anna Kunkel's Kansas City Jazz and MidAmerica Selects teams including Julie Bode, Anna Clouse, Alissa Lockard and Abby Smith. With week-of roster changes (the Minnesota Valkyries were set to send as many as 6 women this weekend but scheduled a last minute scrimmage) Stars also added a few players from the local Saint Louis Sabres courtesy of Director Liz Entwhistle's former Chicago Women's Rugby teammate Elizabeth (Lu) Morrison. Flyhalf Tori King returns to Stars after a strong showing on the Cape Fear 7s and Calgary Stampede 7s tours in July 2016 and introduces her Wichita Valkyries teammate Amanda Urbanek to the mix. Scrumhalf/center Angela Cole of the DC Furies is one of two Stars that have represented on the Capital Selects team out of the Washington, DC area.
Despite being in the heart of the fall collegiate 15s season, the Stars welcome Simpson College veteran Katelyn (KB) Behounek was originally slated for this summer's Stampede tour but was unable to travel; her 2015 NSCRO 7s Championship pedigree will add strength a back three trio that also features Illinois U-23 All Star Jess Dombrowski of Illinois State University, scouted at the 2016 Midwest U-23 All Star Championships, and speedster Abby Smith. The W1823 sevens program also sends a few representatives -- flanker Chip Bell of Tiffin University was recognized for her strong play with a spot on the 2016 NSCRO All-Stars at this year's CRCs while center Cyndi Campbell of Ohio State University is no stranger to USA Rugby Women's Collegiate All American camps earning invites for both 15s and 7s alike. Hannah Graham plays her rugby with the Saint Louis Sabres while studying at Mizzou and former USA Rugby High School All American Sarah Niswander has been seeing time with the University of Iowa, the newest addition to Midwest Division 1.
The roster is rounded out with a strong 2nd row pairing in Emma Wedel of North Dakota State University and Rian Van Nordheim, a San Diego Surfer alum now captaining James River and seeing time with the Capital Selects. Van Nordheim played with the Stars at Cape Fear 7s and will continue a month high level rugby in traveling to Australia for Stars 7s tour October 11th-25th, back again with Stars 15s against Life University on November 12th.
Coach Anna Kunkel is making her Stars debut as well and tackles an interesting challenge with the team having convened in St Charles just the night before the match. She inherits a strong roster with years of cumulative rugby experience despite the majority of the squad being under the age of 23. As a veteran coach at many USA Rugby Age-Grade assemblies, Coach Kunkel is certainly qualified to lead the team and has prepared the players with advanced emails detailing attacking structures and support play. With a mantra of simple rugby executed well, of attacking behind the defense and going for the try, the team will make quick work of Sunday morning classroom session, a walkthrough to institute the game plan and create cohesive set pieces. Coach Nic Benson is coaching on his third Stars tour and will oversee defensive schemes with extra focus on backs play. The services of physio Kemba Noel-London, also on her third Stars tour, will prove invaluable as most of the team played league matches Saturday with their home clubs.
Stars Rugby 7s is honored to play this match versus Lindenwood University and thrilled for the future development of both programs. A high school girls match serves as the curtain raiser for Sunday's clash which is being billed as a Breast Cancer Awareness match. The teams will be selling RUGBY headbands at the gate with profits donated to the American Cancer Society. LU will sport pink socks for the game while Stars have pink headbands/armbands.
Julie Bode - prop - KC Jazz
Anna "Dozer" Clouse - prop - KC Jazz
/Morgan Crowell - prop - at large
/*Amanda Divich - scrumhalf/flyhalf/wing - at large
Jess Dombrowski - fullback/hooker - Illinois State University
*T Fletcher - 8/flanker - Raleigh Venom
*Tori King - flyhalf/center - Wichita Valkyries
Allissa Lockard - wing/lock - KC Jazz
Abby Smith - wing - KC Jazz
/*Jolene Steibel - fullback/wing - Little Rock Stormers
*Rian Van Nordheim - 2nd row - James River
Emma Wedel - flanker/8 - North Dakota State University
Assistant Coach: Nic Benson, San Diego