USA Women’s Sevens Preview: HSBC Canada Sevens 2019

Eagles Sevens enter fifth of six rounds in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series ranked third, with competition from May 11-12 in Langford, B.C.

After winning their third medal of the season to achieve their most successful World Series campaign of all time, the Women’s Eagles Sevens will compete in the fifth tournament of their six-round Olympic qualifying season at HSBC Canada Women's Sevens, May 11-12, LIVE on facebook.com/worldrugby7s.

THIS SERIES LAST STOP: BRONZE FINISH IN KITAKYUSHU

The Women’s Eagles Sevens secured a Bronze medal in Kitakyushu, marking their third trip to the podium in what has become their most successful season of all time. Never before have the USA women won more than two medals in a single season.

For the first time since USA Sevens in 2017, the United States swept pool play with a statement 43-7 victory over England -- their first win over England this season after losing their last two matchups to the English by a try on the final play. A 31-5 win over Fiji and a close 15-12 defeat of Ireland followed suit and the USA were into the Cup Quarterfinals. 

Into the knockout stages, the United States continued their streak with a 26-19 upset of reigning World Cup Champions New Zealand, thanks to a crucial try by Kristi Kirshe which stole back the lead and allowed the USA to focus on defense until time expired.

The squad were victims of their own mistakes in the Semifinals, falling 12-24 to eventual Kitakyushu Champions Canada which pushed them out of the Cup Final. Still in contention for a medal, the USA showed grit and intensity to rally for a 36-12 victory over France in the Bronze final where history was made.

Currently third in the HSBC Series standings, the Eagles Sevens are just two points behind rival-Canada to reach second-place and 18 points ahead of fifth-place France. The top four teams at the end of the season will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.


THE SQUAD

Head Coach Chris Brown has made only one change to his roster from the previous tournament with Abby Gustaitis jumping in for Cheta Emba.

Gustaitis has displayed sharp execution both offensively and defensively over the past month. Her ability to connect with players around her and create opportunities on both sides of the ball will be a complement to the group’s dynamic in Langford.

Co-Captain Lauren Doyle, Alev Kelter and Naya Tapper were three considerable factors in Kitakyushu, combining for 14 of the USA’s 27 tries which helped the Eagles Sevens become the highest scoring team of the tournament.

Tapper was impactful on both sides of the ball, employing the same speed and agility on defense to make try-saving tackles and slow the ball down in crucial moments -- especially during the USA’s quarterfinal upset of New Zealand. Doyle was electric in the knockout rounds, scoring four tries on Day Two with two each against rival-Canada and in the Bronze Final against Ireland. Kelter was named to the HSBC Dream Team and also finished the tournament as the highest overall points scorer (53 pts) of the weekend.

Nana Fa’avesi has also grown through the year in her ability to continuously remain calm under pressure and make effective decisions when moving the ball across the line.

Ilona Maher, Meya Bizer, Co-Captain Nicole Heavirland, Jordan Matyas, Kayla Canett, Kris Thomas and Kristi Kirshe will round out the 12-player squad headed for Langford next week.


THE COMPETITION

Placed in Pool C, the USA women will face Spain, Fiji and France on Day One at Westhills Stadium in Langford. Spain are up first and currently ranked ninth in the World Series standings with Fiji up next, closely behind, at tenth. The final battle of Pool C will be a rematch between the United States and fifth-place France after the Eagles Sevens defeated the French to win their historic Bronze in Kitakyushu.

While France are 18 points behind third-place USA, a win over the United States and berth in the Cup Quarterfinals is paramount to close the 10-point gap that separates them from fourth-place Olympic qualification. The top four teams at the conclusion of the Series will qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 which makes every match both in the pool rounds and knockout stages a must-win for teams this weekend.

BROADCAST: facebook.com/worldrugby7s
LIVE UPDATES: twitter.com/usarugby
MATCH RECAPS: usarugby.org/womens-sevens-news


HEAR IT FROM HEAD COACH CHRIS BROWN

On the biggest challenges of the weekend…
“Our biggest challenge in Langford will be to continue to remain focused on the task at hand and not get taken away by the distraction of possibilities. Whether it be anything regarding Olympic qualification, what could be achieved that weekend or the fear of losing either of those two things, we take it one step at a time.”

On the key to delivering another medal-winning performance…
“We need to focus on the factors we can control. Trusting the principles of play and taking comfort in ourselves as a unit rather than as individuals will be our theme for this weekend. We want to control the outcomes a little, more through dropping our unforced error count and if we can do this while continuing to take confidence in what we have been doing, we will be pleased with how the weekend unfolds.”


TO SUM IT UP

Though the Women’s Eagles Sevens have already made this season their most successful of all-time, much still lies ahead for the entire program. Including Langford, only two tournaments remain for teams to capture as many rankings points as possible to earn Olympic qualification.
In 2015, ahead of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the United States had to qualify through its regional tournament. This time, the group has an opportunity to secure a placing with added months to focus solely on preparation for the Games; as opposed to spending the summer still fighting for qualification.

The combination of skill and experience in the USA lineup means that, while selections for each tournament are tight, there’s enough depth in the player pool to consistently threaten the best teams in the Series.

WOMEN'S EAGLES SEVENS ROSTER

Player NamePositionHSBC Tournaments to Date
1. Meya BizerProp/Hooker4
2. Ilona MaherCenter/Prop5
3. Abby GustaitisProp/ Hooker6
4. Nicole Heavirland (C)Hooker/ Scrumhalf17
5. Alev KelterCenter/ Prop27
6. Lauren Doyle (C)Flyhalf/Center23
7. Naya TapperWing/Prop15
8. Jordan MatyasProp9
9. Nana Fa'avesiScrumhalf17
10. Kayla CanettScrumhalf / Flyhalf5
11. Kris ThomasHooker/ Center20
12. Kristi KirsheCenter/Wing2

WOMEN’S EAGLES SEVENS STAFF

Head Coach | Chris Brown
Head of Physical Performance | Matt Long
Head Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas
Team Manager | Liz Strohecker

HSBC CANADA WOMEN’S SEVENS SCHEDULE

Pool C | Broadcast LIVE on World Rugby Sevens Facebook

vs Spain | Sat, May 11 - 3:12 PM ET
vs Fiji | Sat, May 11 - 5:56 PM ET
vs France | Sat, May 11 - 8:40 PM ET

*Knockout rounds begin as early as Sun, May 12 at 12:18 PM ET

View Pool Draw Here
Visit World Series Stats Center

Top 5 Placings

(following HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens 2019)

CategoryPosition
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Standing3rd (64 points)
Most Points by a TeamUSA, 5th (458 points)
Most Tries by a TeamUSA, 5th (74 tries)
Most Tackles made by a TeamUSA, 2nd (341 tackles)
Most Restarts by a TeamUSA, 5th (84 restarts)


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