USA Women’s Sevens Narrow Focus on Tactical Development & Team Identity Heading Into 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Olympic Qualification

USA Women's Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp
USA Women's Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp

Coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens, the USA Women’s Sevens are preparing for an early December start to the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai.

The team returns to a full schedule of play this season with seven series stops, adding Hong Kong and Vancouver as new tournaments to the women’s circuit, adjustments made by World Rugby pre-COVID, but only now coming to life.

The Women’s Sevens spent a large part of the summer together training for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and short off-season to the beginning of the 2023 series. A busy preseason this fall included developing technically and tactically on the pitch, but importantly team culture off of it as well. A team camping trip was arranged by the players in the mountains of California. 

Head Coach Emilie Bydwell noted on team building, “The team has been very proactive in the development of our culture. They organized a team retreat to begin the season, which I know they all enjoyed, and them taking that level of ownership is exactly where we want to be.”

Heading into their first series stop in Dubai, the squad has been focusing on the next evolution of their team attack and developing their tactical understanding to solve problems more quickly during gameplay. 

“We feel it’s critical for us to play on our players’ strengths, fortifying a playing identity that is uniquely American and exciting to play and watch,” said Bydwell. “We all know how important this season is for our team and the legacy of the program, and that is a responsibility that we are taking very seriously.” 

With a goal of qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris at the forefront this season, by placing in the top four of this year’s series rankings, the team needs to stay connected and present in the moment. Every match matters this season as the competition table grows and becomes increasingly more competitive.

At the fall season High Performance camp in Chula Vista, a one-week stretch aimed at series preparation and inviting future prospects to train as well, the strength and depth of the USA Women’s Sevens program was on display. All prospective participants were top performers at Sevens Collegiate Championships and Premier Rugby Sevens this past year, in addition to up-and-coming talent the USA program has kept an eye on for some time. The group welcomed 2020 Olympian Ariana Ramsey back to the pitch during the camp. Ramsey recovered from an injury sustained in Tokyo and is now back playing with Dartmouth College, where she just last week won a NIRA National Championship with MVP honors against Harvard. 

The High Performance camp let Bydwell and her coaching staff zone in on a group primarily focused on development for the 2028 LA Olympic cycle, here on home soil. Competing, and importantly learning, side by side with the senior players, each prospect will be considered for inclusion in the senior residency or the Academy program that will be running throughout 2023.

Name School / Club
Su Adegoke Life University
Abbi Kowalczk Davenport University
Kapoina Bailey Lindenwood University
Ember Larson University of Michigan
Ariana Ramsey Dartmouth College
Alycia Namosimalua Rhinos Academy / Loggerheads PR7s
Jessica Lu Scion Rugby / Loggerheads PR7s
Natalie Bjorklund* Penn State / Loggerheads PR7s
Alex Wantlin* Life University / Loonies PR7s

*Natalie Bjorklund and Alex Wantlin also participated in 2022 residency.

Looking toward the 2023 season, many recognizable and new names return to residency. Autumn Czaplicki and Jessica Lu are new athletes named to the 2023 Women’s Sevens Residency. Both 2022 USA Club 7s National Champions with Scion, Czaplicki was a standout athlete from West Chester University and has been on Bydwell’s radar since her selection to the W7s development program. She also had strong showings with the USA U23 program and PR7s over the summer.

“Autumn (Czaplicki) is a strong dominant ball carrier who fits well into how we are looking to play, and good base line speed and power that we know will only develop further in a full time environment,” Bydwell said.

Lu, a PR 7s, Scion and Princeton standout, impressed during the High Performance week and joins the full time group in Chula Vista.

Bydwell added, “Jessica has shown how dynamic and dangerous she can be at the domestic level and was one of the top performers at this summer’s PR7s. We will be looking to develop her in the inside/outside halfback positions and allow her to inject her speed and threaten defenses in the middle of the park.”

A notable name will also return to the sevens pitch as Alev Kelter rejoins the Women’s Sevens after playing a season with the Saracens in the Premier 15s and joining the Women’s Eagles 15s squad for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Currently the most capped USA Women’s Sevens player, Kelter’s leadership and rugby IQ will fall in well during this all-important season.

Name HSBC Tournaments
Alena Olsen 9
Alev Kelter 36
Alex Sedrick 6
Ariana Ramsey Yet to debut
Autumn Czaplicki Yet to debut
Cheta Emba (she/her) 22
Ilona Maher 17
Jaz Gray 6
Jessica Lu Yet to debut
Kayla Canett 14
Kristen Thomas 32
Kristi Kirshe (she/her) 13
Lauren Doyle 34
Mata Hingano 4
Joanne “Nana” Fa'avesi (she/her) 23
Naya Tapper 26
Nicole Heavirland 28
Rachel Strasdas 1
Sammy Sullivan Yet to debut
Sarah Levy 4
Stephanie Rovetti 6
Summer Harris Jones 2


Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell (she/her)

Assistant Coach | Zack Test

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas (she/her)

Performance Director | Alex Ross

Dietician | Jacque Scaramella

Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford

Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl (he/him)

Team Manager | Liz Strohecker (she/her)