CHULA VISTA, CA. – After opening their Olympic qualifying year in second-place, the Women’s Eagles Sevens depart for the second stop of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series at Dubai Sevens, Nov. 29-30.
This Series Last Stop
It was the ultimate tale of second chances last time the Women’s Eagles Sevens took the pitch.
To open the inaugural HSBC USA Women’s Sevens 2018 in Glendale, the Women’s Sevens suffered a devastating 10-12 loss to England with a try on the final whistle, only to narrowly defeat China 24-21 before they fell to New Zealand 12-35. With their hopes of advancing scattered, the USA was redeemed by a 1-point differential that held Spain’s runaway win over Mexico back from the coveted knockout rounds.
With a ticket punched to the Cup Quarterfinals, the United States established a momentous run that clinched a 26-5 victory over Olympic Gold Medalist Australia for their first victory over the Wallabies Sevens since 2015.
Then, in a Semifinal battle almost fallen to France, the Eagles Sevens were reborn with a herculean try on the final play by debutant Alena Olsen. Olsen’s try paved the way for USA to face New Zealand in the Cup Final, where they fell 7-33 to claim the silver.
In their second consecutive silver-medal start to a new season, the U.S. women have again reached a valuable benchmark to set the tone for qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Who to Watch
The Dubai bound squad will see two changes made from Glendale with Ashlee Byrge earning her debut and Joanne Fa’avesi back in the mix.
Byrge will make her first appearance on the Sevens Series circuit after embedding herself in the Women’s Sevens Residency program and working diligently to advance her core rugby skills. The athlete earns her start after competing in several competitions with the developmental Falcons side.
Similarly — and with sevens fans across the globe still feverish from her heroic try last tournament — Alena Olsen will jump back into the fold prepared to build on her achievements in Dubai. Olsen’s try was the first ever of her senior national team career after the athlete spent months growing within the sevens program.
Like Olsen, Ilona Maher became a fast sensation as she crossed the tryline game after game to close out her home stop as the second highest try scorer of USA Sevens. Maher scored in four out of the six matches contested including a hat trick against Olympic Gold medalist Australia.
Heading into Dubai Sevens in Pool B, the USA women will face China at 4:06 AM ET, England at 7:02 AM ET and Australia at 9:59 AM ET on Thursday, Nov. 29.
China and England both faced the Women’s Sevens in pool play last tournament, learning first-hand that the U.S. side must never be underestimated given their comeback medal. Australia will be hungry to make-up for the painful loss to USA that ultimately left them with a fifth-place standing.
England currently sits in eighth-place with China back behind at 11th.
Hear it from Head Coach Chris Brown
Assessment of Competition in pool play…
“We have a challenging pool again. Australia are Olympic Champions for valid reasons and are a classy outfit especially with core players returning from injury. England have depth coming out its ears through the backing of their professional league and age group system, and China have a number of players returning and are under the guidance of a very good coach in Chad Shepherd.”
On how to succeed as a unit…
“Ultimately our progress will depend heavily on how we execute as a unit. We saw in Glendale how if our intent is right, we focus on the task at hand, and our defensive system executes, even when we only have 30% of the ball we can still come away with a result. That’s a testament to the collective fight of this group and the buy-in to what has been our major focus to start this season.”
On how debutant Ashlee Byrge put herself forward to earn selection…
“Ashlee’s an individual that’s been fighting for an opportunity for a while. Her consistency of application over the past month alongside her enhancement in game understanding has seen her advance into the Dubai squad. When it comes to consistency of training intent we can always count on Ashlee being one of the examples to follow. This is an important trait when we look at the culture our group is trying to enhance and embed as a new norm.”
To Sum it Up
The USA Women’s Sevens are riding a high from their silver medal in Glendale and must continue their momentum in order to achieve a Top 4 finish when all is said and done at the end of the season. With a new debutant in the mix and several athletes rising to the surface with monumental performances, the U.S. women have a stacked lineup to face China, England and Australia on Day One.
Women’s Eagles Sevens Roster
All players are part of the Women’s Sevens residency program.
1. Joanne Fa’avesi
2. Abby Gustaitis
3. Cheta Emba
4. Ilona Maher
5. Kristen Thomas
6. Ashlee Byrge*
7. Lauren Doyle (Co-Captain)
8. Alena Olsen
9. Alev Kelter
10. Nicole Heavirland (Co-Captain)
11. Naya Tapper
12. Stephanie Rovetti
*First HSBC World Sevens Series appearance.
Women’s Eagles Sevens Staff
General Manager | Emilie Bydwell
Head Coach | Chris Brown
Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas
Team Manager | Liz Strohecker
Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens Schedule
Pool B | Broadcast info will be confirmed closer to date
vs China | Thurs, Nov. 29 – 4:06 AM ET
vs England | Thurs, Nov. 29 – 7:02 AM ET
vs Australia | Thurs, Nov. 29 – 9:59 AM ET
Top 5 Placings for USA
(following HSBC USA Women’s Sevens 2018)
|HSBC World Series Standing||2nd (18 points)|
|Most Tries by a Player||Ilona Maher, 2nd (7 tries)|
|Most Points Scored by a Team (all time)||4th (3359)|
|Most Tries Scored by a Team (all time)||4th (550)|