It’s an all-Austin affair at the end of the 2021 TOLA season as the Austin Huns and the Austin Valkyries take home the trophies.
Austin had a strong season, taking home back to back championships at the start of the summer, and rounding it out with back to back silvers at the end. Notably, they entered two different sides at Bloodfest, who ended up meeting in the unplayed final – where the teams shared the glory instead of pitting teammates against each other. They ended up falling to Houston twice at Cherrybone and River City, but Houston entered one less tournament than Austin, and consistency proved key to the TOLA win this year. Austin elected to forgo Club 7’s Nationals this year and instead focus on the XV season ahead. Two years ago Austin took home 2nd at the D1 Women’s USA Rugby National Championship and they have the makings of another top tier team this year.
Houston sHARCs finished the season strong with back to back wins at Cherrybone and River City, defeating the Austin Valkyries. The sHARCs focused on their strong defense and speed on the outside to take home the wins. We would have loved to see the sHARCs on the National 7’s stage but they too are starting their XV prep early. Both Austin and Houston play in a cross-conference league with the Colorado Gray Wolves and Denver Black Ice, both of whom start matches in September. In order to match Colorado’s preparation, the Texas teams have to start early.
The Dallas Harlequins are taking home third thanks to a 2nd place finish at Lonestar and a 3rd place finish at Cherrybone. We didn’t see much of the Lady Quins this year, but from the glimpses we got, we are excited to see them take on the XV season. They have some serious talent, and some great rugby minds that have played with notable clubs like ARPTC and Life University.
Fourth on the table are newcomers Alliance. In their first formal TOLA season, a top-four finish is admirable from this group of ladies. It must also be noted that while “absent” from Bloodfest, many of their core players travelled down to play with the Denton women. With this – Alliance, along with the Austin Valkyries and Houston sHARCs are the only three womens’ clubs to attend four tournaments; a massive commitment. Alliance will be playing with the Women’s D3 teams this fall, but with the growth we’ve seen this summer, it’s only a matter of time before they move up.
Grand Prairie Mavericks
For the third season in a row, it’s the boys in blue taking home the TOLA Championship. The Austin Huns went an impressive 30-4 over the summer, taking home three tournament championships; Lone Star 7’s, Hell or High Water, and River City 7’s. The Austin Huns were never the biggest team on the pitch so they had to rely on quick thinking and cohesiveness in order to spread the defense and create holes. This clearly worked as they were able to slip by the 2nd place TOLA team Dallas RFC three times in their campaign. Austin also floats more depth than we’ve seen from any of the other TOLA sides. A squad made up of largely Austin 2 players travelled to Shreveport and they still managed to shoot their way to the final where they only lost by 3 in the last minute. The Austin Huns look forward to Club 7’s this weekend in Seattle, their first Club 7’s since 2017. Be sure to watch for Case Fleck leading the charge with his quick decision-making and communication. Brendon Curle always delivers in his strong runs and insane vertical, making restarts just another chance for attack. Corey Jones is the lynchpin, always seeming to deliver what is needed, exactly when the Huns need it the most.
The Dallas RFC take home 2nd in this years’ TOLA Championship. Dallas had two championship wins in the series, and both significant ones. At Bloodfest, Dallas took down Rhino Rugby in the final and at HTX 7’s they bested the Denver Barbarians in the semi-final. Dallas has proven their ability to take down clubs from outside of Texas, and this may be the key when it comes to Club 7’s in Seattle. The boys from Dallas are stalwarts on the National Club 7’s scene, winning the RRRC bid in 2019, and forging their own way in 2018 by winning the Eastern Super Qualifier. This year, the club brings two sides, one participating in the Signes Cup, and the second side in the Silver Cup. The Dallas 1 roster is stacked heading into the weekend; the side is led by Dylan Carrion, one of the most knowledgeable players out there. Power runners Spike Davis and Alex Elkins look to take it into contact with their bruising runs while finishers Darrien Pipkins and Deionte “Noodles” McMurray are lethal in space. Dallas 2 is fielding a strong roster as well, led by the White Lightning himself, Tommy Hever.
Coming in third are the Grand Prairie Mavericks, who delighted us all with their incredible rise to the top this year. We underestimated Grand Prairie coming into the start of the season, and as the tournaments wore on, Grand Prairie kept putting the pieces together to make the magic happen. These boys clearly spend a lot of time together on and off the pitch, possessing a telepathic understanding of who is going to do what and when. Grand Prairie ends the season with two first-place finishes, Cherrybone and the season finale in Shreveport where they stunned the Austin Huns after taking down the Dallas RFC in the semi-finals. Grand Prairie also heads to Seattle this weekend to participate in the Silver Cup. Their first trip to 7’s Nationals is sure to be a special one, as these boys have the talent and the grit to come home with the whole shebang. Players to look for – Jinho Mun is sly and plays the ball quickly, creating opportunities for the power runners. Drew Wasikowski absolutely slams the competition, a rare combination of speed and power. And of course Bryan Ptomey who seems to be everywhere at once, making confident tackles, slicing runs, and being a menace at the breakdown.
Fourth in the table after a late surge are the boys from Houston, Rugby HTX. After coming fourth at Bloodfest, Rugby HTX seemed to be out of the running; until they started putting it together at Cherrybone. With a convincing trip to the final of Cherrybone, the HTX boys added some fuel to the fire and became regulars in the semi-finals, competing with the rest of the top four to prove they belonged. Although the scoreboards weren’t always in their favor, the on-field execution was superb, and HTX played their hearts out. If there’s anything you can expect from HTX in Seattle, it’s their fitness and consistency. They have the gas to last the full 14 minutes, and they have the individual talent to make it to the top. If Rugby HTX can really connect this upcoming weekend and play to each other’s strengths, they will be unstoppable. Although their later tournament squads were bolstered by players from the Houston Sabercats, we are looking at the core HTX players entering Club 7’s. Trace Bolstad is an absolute commander out there, his cool head and quick thinking create a strong base for HTX to build from. Jimmy Haley is back from injury and will challenge the competition with his ability to read the field and back it up with some serious speed. John Ray rounds it out as a monster on defense, making massive hits in open space.