A second straight fourth-place finish for the USA Women’s Sevens in Perth left the squad with major takeaways on improving their game as they build their campaign to chase a Series medal and Paris 2024.
The team showed promise throughout the weekend solid attack buildups and strong defense, but let major moments slip away. The team heads home to Chula Vista to work on elevating in every game consistently
The women’s game just continues to elevate, every competition. Teams are here for it this season and every team can beat us on a given day, and we can beat any team. Momentum means next to nothing game to game in sevens and we need to be prepared to deliver effort, compete, play to our identity and really elevate in every game. We showed some great positives that we have been working hard at on the home front, and then some inconsistencies that are still to be addressed.
Whether it’s flooding support lanes or being there to secure possession, digging deeper to switch into that next gear to finish, or nailing that last pass - these are the details that make the difference when every team is competing so hard to win. These moments need to give us the confidence that we are creating opportunities and fuel our desire to refine the detail so that we capitalize more consistently.”
The Eagles commenced Pool C against Ireland. With the USA and Ireland ranked sixth and seventh overall, respectively, the two met on the Perth SVNS pitch for the first time this season. In her first SVNS tour of the season, Kristi Kirshe made her presence known, pressuring an early penalty and catching a pass by Ilona Maher to run to the first try of the match. Jaz Gray had a similar run down to five points off a series of long phase plays as the USA worked to keep the ball alive. This first match was a test of both teams’ abilities to play clinically and win every moment, and some disorganized offense, uncharacteristic errors, and defensive mistakes on the USA side let Ireland take advantage and score just one more try more, winning the first Pool C match 14-19.
To keep in the conversation for quarterfinals, the USA needed to turn around for a win against Japan. Kicking off, Alena Olsen wins a turnover off the bat for the Eagles as the squad went for scrums to slow down the game for control. Japan’s defense started strong, pushing the USA back into their own territory, but the Eagles held up to gain back ground and get Kristi Kirshe over the try line for the first USA points. The USA kept in full control the majority of the game, with Kirshe finishing plays for four total tries, earning her 60th career try. The Eagles continued to capitalize on Japan errors, giving Ilona Maher space to run under the posts for another five. The USA conceded only five points to Japan, winning 33-5.
In their final pool match against New Zealand, the USA was looking organized and ready to score until a small mistake let the Black Ferns immediately capitalize and score. The majority of the match saw missed opportunities by the USA despite great attack forays. New Zealand kept conceding penalties into the second half, where Jaz Gray was able to fend off some tacklers and go around for a try. It would be the only time the Eagles would touch the try zone, losing the game 24-7.
The USA’s point percentages were enough to earn a spot in the quarterfinals, this time against France. Early on, the Eagles were failing to hold on to possession, letting France take control with early points. Both sides were a bit scrappy, but the USA managed to take possession, slowly passing through tackles until Sammy Sullivan streaked away for a USA try. France started faltering under Eagles’ pressure, letting the squad work to take advantage. The first half was a tug of war with possession, but Alev Kelter was able to extend the USA lead with a try off a pass by Alena Olsen off a scrum. In the second half, the Eagles recycled well in possession, tiring out, letting Alev Kelter finish the strong phase play for the USA’s final points. The rest of the match was a fight with no points conceded, but it was the USA that booked the spot to the semifinals with a 21-5 win.
A semifinal against Australia would be a fight with a home crowd cheering on the USA’s opponent, and it proved to be the physical fight the Eagles were expecting. The majority of the first half was a fight for possession with both sides winning penalties, rucks, and gaining ground, but Australia would be the only one to score thanks to a strong USA defense. In the second half, the home crowd energized Australia to capitalize on USA errors and score several times. Only Naya Tapper made it over the try line for the Eagles, ending with a 7-24 loss.
It would be a fight for bronze against Great Britain, who were riding high off a pool stage upset against Australia. Great Britain was fighting straight out of the gates while the USA worked to go slow to build phases. But some mishandling gave Great Britain the ball to spy an opening and take the first points. The first half continued to see missed opportunities after great builds by the Eagles. The squad had a better start to the second half, but Great Britain had stronger defense, including a maul win to force a turnover. With the clock ticking down, Naya Tapper finally found the space to score with Alev Kelter over the try line moments later, but it wouldn’t be enough for the USA to overtake Great Britain, taking fourth place with a 10-24 loss.
The squad will rest this week before returning to training and working toward Vancouver SVNS and their first home series game at Los Angeles SVNS. HSBC Vancouver SVNS will kick off Friday, February 23, live on RugbyPass TV.
|2. Ilona Maher
|3. Kayla Canett
|4. Nicole Heavirland
|5. Alev Kelter
|6. Alena Olsen
|7. Naya Tapper (C)
|10. Steph Rovetti
|12. Kristi Kirshe
|13. Sarah Levy
|17. Spiff Sedrick
|22. Sammy Sullivan
|27. Summer Harris-Jones
|99. Jaz Gray
Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell
Assistant Coach | Zack Test
Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas
Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl
v Ireland | 14-19 (L)
v Japan | 33-5 (W)
v New Zealand | 7-24 (L)
QF v France | 21-5 (W)
SF v Australia | 7-24 (L)
Bronze Final v Great Britain | 10-24 (L)