Tough results from Dubai but USA Women’s Sevens remain confident in podium potential

Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Women’s Sevens did not have the SVNS kickoff weekend they hoped for, finishing seventh at Emirates Dubai Sevens.

Lessons in cohesion, actions, and connection will be crucial as they regroup for stop two next weekend. A top team on the SVNS series with podium potential at every stop, the USA will continue into Cape Town with Head Coach Emilie Bydwell’s mentality of improving at every stage and continually building through the season. 

The Eagles fell to Canada and France in Pool C, sneaking into the  quarterfinals, where they met a fast and tough Australia side. The squad didn’t play on their best footing, missing a few  opportunities to up the score. With one week until the next stop on the SVNS series, the team will recoup and work together as they head to Cape Town. 

Comments from Head Coach Emilie Bydwell: 

“It was great to be back on the World Series. Something that can be difficult to remember until you actually get back out there is that you have to reinvent yourself and deliver - every season, every tournament, and every game.

We have a strong foundation, we’ve worked hard on our values and philosophy in what we’re trying to do and we have collective belief in what we are capable of. At the end of the day, what matters are actions in the moment, and this weekend was a lesson for us on that. Last season, we had a lot of close games that we ended up gritting out at the last whistle, and that wasn’t what happened this weekend. It’s such an important inflection point for us around taking control, delivering on the details, and bringing the energy and work ethic that we pride ourselves on.

We need to be more disciplined in the details of our framework on both attack and defense. These aspects are emphasized by how the game and opposition is continuing to improve, and you can’t get away with things if you don’t get the small details right. We need to accelerate our work off the ball, whether that be in support, in our reload, or in our alignment to address the fact that other teams are working really hard to make spaces quickly. We’ll take a look at that stuff, but at the end of the day what we know is that big scorelines in sevens aren’t necessarily representative of what the next game you play against that team is going to be. We go back to the detail on what actually impacts the game. We are grateful we have another chance to improve and deliver next week."

Tournament Recap

The Eagles kicked off their 2024 SVNS season with a dominant 27-0 win over Spain. Spiff Sedrick had an instant impact at the start, scoring the first points at Dubai 7s. The USA was dominant in most of the game, but faltered with some scrappy defense that kept Spain hopeful to make it over the try line. But the USA’s defense would hold up and allow them to keep control of the ball. Ariana Ramsey was a standout on the wing as she finished some connected offloads, and Ilona Maher’s strength and Jaz Gray’s speed were hallmarks of the first match. 

The USA’s next match was a North American rematch with Canada. Always an exciting game, this one was no different as the nail-biting match came down to overtime. Lauren Doyle evaded several tackles to score the first try of the match, and Jaz Gray used her fresh feet and quick speed to score off the bench. Canada showed strong defense to win rucks and keep the USA scrambling, keeping the score tied to head into overtime. Their improved defense kept the Eagles from finishing their try-scoring plays, letting Canada find the ball and score the final try, ending the game with a USA loss, 10-15. 

With one win and one loss, the Eagles’ placement in the quarterfinals came down to their final match against France. Les Bleues were dominant from the start, and kept the USA struggling to connect. Most of the game was played in the USA’s own territory, and Kris Thomas was the only one able to break through for the sole points for the Eagles. With a 38-5 loss, the Eagles needed to reset and look at their strategy heading into day two. 

Points differentials among the pools kept the USA in the conversation for quarterfinals, and they secured a spot as the best third place team for a knockout match against Australia, who entered quarterfinals undefeated in their pool. The match kicked off in Australia’s control, and it was evident from the start that their quickness would evade USA defenses. They won multiple rucks to steal the ball back and stretch their lead. Ariana Ramsey found an opportunity to evade Australia and run fast toward a try, but it would be the only control the Eagles had on the ball, losing the game 5-32, sending the squad to the seventh place playoff against Brazil. 

The USA and Brazil met again just off a 36-0 USA win at the PanAmerican Games. Both eager to finish their Dubai 7s tour with a win, the game kicked off with some exchange of possession. The Eagles finally held on for Naya Tapper to gain some ground before offloading to Ilona Maher, who ran to her 50th series career try. The squad kept up skipping over tackles and running into space, giving opportunities for Jaz Gray, tapper, and Lauren Doyle to score. Their connection improved as the minutes wore on, only letting Brazil through for one try of their own. Ending the game 38-7, the Eagles completed Dubai on a high note. 

A tough weekend for the Eagles, the realizations instilled more determination and motivation for them as they head to Cape Town for the second stop on the series. Cape Town SVNS kicks off Saturday, December 9, broadcast information to be announced soon.

USA Women's Sevens Roster | Emirates Dubai 7s
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Cheta Emba Prop/Hooker 30
2. Ilona Maher Center 23
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf 22
4. Nicole Heavirland Hooker/Scrumhalf 35
5. Alev Kelter Center 40
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 17
7. Naya Tapper (C) Wing 33
11. Kris Thomas Hooker/Prop 40
17. Alex “Spiff” Sedrick Center 12
21. Ariana Ramsey Wing 3
22. Sammy Sullivan Prop/Wing 7
23. Lauren Doyle (C) Wing 40
99. Jaz Gray Wing 10

USA Women’s Sevens Traveling Staff

Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell

Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas

Media Manager | Taylor Dean

USA Women’s Sevens Results | 2023 Emirates Dubai 7s

Saturday, December 2

Pool C

v Spain | 27-0 (W)

v Canada | 10-15 (L)

v France | 5-38 (L)

Sunday, December 3

Quarterfinal v Australia | 5-32 (L)

7th Place Playoff v Brazil | 38-7 (W)