PanAms Gold for the USA Women's Eagles Sevens

Matías Matus Acebo
Matías Matus Acebo

The USA Women’s Sevens have had an active off season between World Rugby Sevens Series with two international tours all part of a comprehensive lead up to the 2024 Olympic campaign.

The hard work paid off in Santiago this weekend, with a Team USA gold medal victory at the 2023 Pan American Games. The first gold for rugby sevens in the competitions 72 year history. The Highwomen of the United States had targets 100% set on reaching and winning the gold medal final, creating a physical and mental boost for the squad going into this all-important year. Following two silver medal finishes in the previous two PanAms, with many players here in Chile represented on those squads, ecstatic to finish on top of the podium this time around.

Day one was a dominant showing for the USA, not allowing a point on defense and leading to a 3-0 pool play finish over Jamaica, Colombia and Paraguay. The Eagles were very much a favored team in Pool A, with clinical play that kept possession out of their own end for nearly 90% of the qualifying games. The only pressure from the first match against Jamaica came at the beginning of the second half with a mishandled knock on from the restart. Colombia made it to the USA 5-meter line following a highlight chase down by Kristi Kirshe, but the USA escaped for Naya to take the 90- meter try and flip the field. Following a controlled win over Paraguay, the USA head into the semifinal without a scratch.

Brazil met the United States in the semifinal, again unable to put up points on the Americans as they won, 36-0. As one of the growing programs in South America, Brazil did well to possess the ball despite the shutout. The USA was on pace however, scoring three 70+ meter tries on their way to the Gold Medal final against rival Canada, who had tallied a few pool play shutouts as well.

The final saw Canada strike first after the opening kickoff dribble into touch and offered a lineout try for Piper Logan. With some communication and passing miscues, the USA were scrambled early, but great breakdown work from Cheta Emba near the end of the first half allowed Kirshe a breakup the middle and try under posts after the horn. A crucial swing of momentum before the break and short relief for the USA fans. After the break, Canada kept pressure, retaking the lead on a peculiar uncontested maul that seemed to baffle the USA defense on ruling, Canada took advantage of the whistle not sounding, scoring on the edge. The USA would answer right back however, with a try from Alex Sedrick off the bench, who reeled in the restart at midfield, saw a gap directly in front of her and went for it. Try USA without contact. Naya Tapper, the team’s leading try scorer, would add an insurance score with under a minute left and secure the gold medal victory.

While not the cleanest final from the USA, the tournament win is a positive boost for the program going into this Olympic year, serving as a marker for getting the small details in high pressure, medal-worthy games going forward. The USA will now return home to Chula Vista with some personal time off, before assembling in camp with full sights set on the 2024 World Rugby SVNS Series.