First season medal on home soil for the USA Women’s Sevens

Mon, Mar 4, 2024, 4:54 AM
by Taylor Dean
Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Women’s Sevens had an electric weekend at their first Los Angeles SVNS, winning five of six matches throughout the weekend to take the bronze medal. 

The home crowd energized the Eagles as they stood atop their pool and dominated South Africa in the quarterfinals, but a physical Australia kept the team away from the gold medal match. The North American battle victory was a sweet home tournament win for the Highwomen as they build up again toward the next tournament. 

Comments from Head Coach Emilie Bydwell: 

“It was such an amazing experience to play at home in front of our family, friends and alumnae. While the goal was to win it, bronze feels like gold today knowing that we are playing the brand of rugby that we are after and we are continuing to improve in the areas that we are focusing on. We are also proud that we had a full team performance with every one of our players making an impact to the squad performance.

It means so much for us. We’ve been building to this and I am so happy for the players to be able to have that moment in front of their families and communities. This is an important brick for us in our season and we are looking forward to being able to build on this performance over the next four weeks into Hong Kong.”

Tournament Recap

The USA welcomed Spain to their home turf for the first match on Friday night. Spain showed strong defense at the start, giving the Eagles a tough fight before Sarah Levy finally broke loose and scored the first USA try of the weekend. Sammy Sullivan scored another breakaway try as the Eagles slowly built up their confidence in front of the home crowd. A collective effort shone as Ilona Maher finished some patient phase play and caught critical offloads for two tries of her own. Spiff Sedrick and Kris Thomas earned points for the USA with their try finishes, proving the USA would be a dominant force on their home field. Though Spain found the space to get through once, it was an Eagles match, winning 40-5. 

From the start of their second pool match against Great Britain, the USA’s dominance was on full display. Kirsti Kirshe fought through tacklers for a try in the first minute, and the squad turned around quickly for Ilona Maher to slide down for a second score. Great Britain was putting up a good fight, but most of the game would be played in their own territory as Lauren Doyle got the ball through to another five points. But Great Britain would get USA spaces too wide, letting them through for their only score of the match before halftime. The Eagles kept up their dominance in the second half, with their collective effort getting the ball through again by Steph Rovetti. Ariana Ramsey put up 10 more points with two highlight-worthy tries, earning another dominant win, 34-7. 

The Eagles’ final pool match would be against Canada, and the squad was determined to redeem their loss in Vancouver. Canada’s skills from Vancouver were on show again in Los Angeles, but it would be Spiff Sedrick that won a Canadian kicking game to win possession and let Sammy Sullivan outrun defenders for the first score. Canada were strong in their defense, but Alev Kelter was stronger as she pushed through to place the ball down in the try zone before halftime. In the second half, Canada pushed hard on attack as both teams played very physically. On attack, Alena Olsen broke away and the squad continued their cohesive phases for Sammy Sullivan to score off a dummy step play. Kayla found space on the wing for one more USA try, and Canada had the final say with five more points but would concede to the home team, 22-19.

Finishing the top of pool play, the USA entered their third day with high hopes in their quarterfinal against South Africa. From the start, the Eagles were patient with their phases as South Africa tried to tire out the home team. But Ilona Maher would outwork their opponents for the first try of the match. Maher would prove to be the MVP of the match on both sides, stopping South Africa by tackling a player to touch, giving the USA a scrum at their own five-meter line. Ilona went on to score two more tries for a hat trick, the Eagles kept capitalizing on South Africa’s urgency to put on pressure and get ARian Ramsey on the wing for five more points. A tired USA side made a few ball handling errors that forced them to reset, and on defense let South Africa get away for one score. But Ariana Ramsey kept up the neergy to stop a last second South Africa try, ending the game and booking a ticket to the semifinals, 24-5. 

The USA entered the semifinal against Australia, a fast, physical team that would be a heart-racing challenge. The Eagles began by winning their own kickoff, but lost the ball for Australia to break way and take the first score of the game. A shaky USA side had some errors on attack that prevented them from taking opportunities, but they kept up the momentum as Kayla Canett kicked the ball down field, where Naya Tapper was waiting to win at the ruck. In Australia territory, the Eagles had to work hard on offloads and keep up urgency for Sammy Sullivan to push through and take the first USA try. Down by nine points heading into the second half, the USA knew they needed to play fast. After winning the ball on kickoff, Spiff Sedrick ran fast down to the try zone and quickly converted her own try to turn around and get the USA back to work. Alev Kelter converted her own try soon after to tie up the game. The Eagles won one more kickoff and patiently made it down Australia territory, but lost the ball to a penalty moments before scoring, giving Australia the width to run down and score the winning try, sending the Eagles to the bronze final, 19-26.

The Eagles rematched against Canada in the bronze medal match to close out their first Los Angeles SVNS. The home crowd was buzzing as the teams took the field, and that energy fueled the USA to be dominant throughout the match. Canada were determined to reverse the results of the pool match, but the Eagles’ defensive pressure let Naya Tapper take a loose ball and score quickly. Canada wrestled the ball to take quite a bit of possession, finally breaking through the USA to end the first half in a tie. In the second half, a kickoff possession win got another USA try by Steph Rovetti. Canada continued to make the Eagles work for the ball as they inched closer to their opponent’s territory, but it was a yellow card to Canada during a try-blocking tackle that gave away a penalty try and a healthy American lead and the ultimate win, 21-7. 

The bronze medal gives the USA enough points to sit fourth on the series standings as they head to the final two SVNS matches ahead of the finale in Madrid. HSBC Hong Kong SVNS kicks off Friday, April 5, live on RugbyPass and semis and finals live on Peacock.

USA Women's Sevens Roster | Los Angeles SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
2. Ilona Maher Center / Prop 27
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf 26
5. Alev Kelter Center / Prop 44
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 21
7. Naya Tapper (C) Wing 38
10. Steph Rovetti Scrum Half / Fly Half 13
11. Kris Thomas Hooker / Prop 42
12. Kristi Kirshe Prop / Hooker 23
13. Sarah Levy Hooker 8
17. Spiff Sedrick Center 17
21. Ariana Ramsey Wing 6
22. Sammy Sullivan Prop / Hooker 11
23. Lauren Doyle (C) Fly Half 43

USA Women's Sevens Traveling Staff | Los Angeles SVNS

Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell

Assistant Coach | Zack Test

Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford

Team Manager | Liz Strohecker

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas

Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl

Nutrition | Jacque Scaramella

Analyst | Lauren Barber

Media Manager | Taylor Dean

USA Women's Sevens Los Angeles SVNS Results

Pool Play

v Spain | 40-5 (W)

v Great Britain | 34-7 (W)

v Canada | 22-19 (W)


QF v South Africa | 24-5 (W)

SF v Australia | 19-26 (L)

Bronze Final v Canada | 21-7 (W)