USA Women’s Sevens Prepare to Kick Off Olympic Qualifying Season as Lineup is Announced for Dubai and Cape Town

Alex Ho
Alex Ho

The all-important Olympic qualification season is officially underway as the USA Women’s Sevens traveling roster is announced for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stops in Dubai and Cape Town.

Veteran Naya Tapper will step in as Captain as Lauren Doyle recovers from injury, leading a core of senior talent fresh off a fourth place finish at the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa. Playing back-to-back tour stops to open the season for only the second time, with Cape Town added to the Women’s circuit in 2020, the USA enter the season with one major focus, earning Olympic qualification by ranking in the top four by the end of the season. Dubai Sevens kicks off for the Women’s Sevens at 12 AM ET on Friday, December 2, where the USA will face Canada in their first game of the season. All matches will be streaming LIVE on Peacock.

Dubai Sevens Preview

With Olympic qualification on the line this year, every match counts as much as the next for the USA Women’s Sevens. The Dubai roster features a core group of players who have been regular to the USA side since the Tokyo Olympics, bringing significant experience to the qualification chase. The seasoned squad will hope to start the season off strong with improved tactical skills and a bolstered team culture following an off season that included a unique experience in the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Naya Tapper will serve as captain in Dubai and Cape Town, while Lauren Doyle recovers from injury.

Despite debuting with the USA Women’s Sevens in September for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, Sam Sullivan will make her first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series appearance in Dubai. The Army West Point grad was a standout collegiate player in 15s and 7s, awarded the Prusmack Award in 2019, recognizing her as the top collegiate women’s 7s player in the country. Since college, Sullivan has shined on the domestic and international stage with appearances in Premier Rugby Sevens, Women’s Premier League and even an international cap with the USA Women’s Eagles XVs in June during the Pacific Four Series.

Dubai has always been a peak tournament for the Eagles, who will again look to start the season off strong. First kicking off in Pool A against Canada, the Eagles hope to continue their winning ways over their North American rival who they last played at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, winning 10-7. The USA’s next matchup will be against China, who the team hasn’t played since their 33-14 win in Tokyo. Finally, the Eagles will face 2022 Series Champions and 2022 RWC7s Champions, Australia for a marquee Pool A matchup, in the hopes of a little redemption since the Aussies bounced the USA from medal contention in South Africa this fall.

Finishing sixth on the 2022 series, the United States will be on the hunt for improvement to earn Olympic qualification. With the core group returning healthy, and most importantly a full slate of competition on the World Rugby sevens schedule, this squad has a perfect pathway to booking their tickets to Paris 2024 early.

Head Coach Emilie Bydwell’s comments on return to the world circuit:

“We are so excited to get this season under way, we know that it’s going to be fiercely competitive with all teams bringing their very best to each competition. We know how much every game is going to matter in our pursuit of Olympic qualification so we plan to take everything game by game and moment by moment.

Our pool is a perfect way to kick off this season, especially seeing two teams we faced at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in September, this way we’re able to measure our progress and assess how the things we’ve been focusing on at home have developed. We know how hard playing a brave and spirited Canadian team in game one is, so it’s exactly what we need to practice our ability, to remain present and take on what’s in front of us. China is skilled and resilient and will be a really good way for us to again, remain present, focus on our plan and give us some different problems to solve. Lastly, to end the first day of the tournament with the World’s best team in Australia, couldn’t be a better opportunity!”

USA Women’s Sevens Roster | Emirates Airlines / HSBC Dubai Sevens
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Cheta Emba (she/her) Prop/Hooker 22
2. Ilona Maher Center/Prop 17
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf / Scrumhalf 14
4. Nicole Heavirland Hooker/Scrumhalf 28
5. Alex "Spiff" Sedrick Flyhalf/Center 6
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 9
7. Naya Tapper (C) Wing/Prop 26
9. Joanne "Nana" Fa’avesi (she/her) Prop 23
10. Stephanie Rovetti Flyhalf/Center 6
11. Kristen Thomas Hooker/Prop 32
12. Kristi Kirshe (she/her) Center/Prop 13
22. Sammy Sullivan Prop Yet to debut
99. Jaz Gray Wing 6

USA Women’s Eagles Traveling Staff

Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell (she/her)

Assistant Coach | Zack Test

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas (she/her)

Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford

Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl (he/him)

Team Manager | Liz Strohecker (she/her)

USA Women’s Sevens Dubai Schedule
Friday, Dec 2

vs Canada | 12:00 AM ET

vs China | 4:05 AM ET

vs Australia | 7:35 AM ET

Live on Peacock

Knockout stages start Saturday, December 3 at 12:00 AM ET (Midnight)