FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Courtesy of Aalina Tabani, Communications Manager, High Performance
LAFAYETTE, CO – Last time they were on home soil at AT&T Park, the Women’s Eagles Sevens left everything on the pitch to finish fourth at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
After suffering two late injuries just days before competition began, the team banded together for a startling 38-7 win over China in the Round of 16; only to follow with another 33-17 statement win over Russia.
In the Championship Semifinals, however, the team was taken by eventual Champion New Zealand, who pushed every boundary to overcome the Eagles Sevens by only one try (21-26). A heartbreaking loss to Australia (14-24) in the Bronze Final followed, after which the Women’s Sevens concluded their World Cup run at fourth.
It was a string of valiant performances, to say the least, as the home team attacked every match with fire; continuing to push the limits until the final moments of each contest. While the World Cup is now in the rear-view, the ultimate prize still lies ahead with the start of an Olympic qualification season.
Who to Watch
The battle-hardened Women’s Sevens will bring eight players from the aforementioned Rugby World Cup Sevens to the new opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series. Under the direction of Interim Head Coach Chris Brown, the returners will be graced by three new faces making their debuts in what will be a thrilling season opener at home.
Among them are Stephanie Rovetti, Alena Olsen and Lauren Thunen. Rovetti and Olsen were teammates during the recent Club Sevens National Championships helping the San Diego Surfers claim a championship title while dazzling audiences.
Rovetti earned MVP honors after finding the try zone on countless occasions despite only having played rugby for a few months. Olsen, a former All-American, has made several appearances on developmental Falcons tours, immersing herself in high performance training camp and club competition to evolve her play-making abilities.
Thunen is a 2018 Women’s Junior All-American herself who earned her selection following a strong showing at the recent U20 Women’s Tri-Nations Cup.
Among the eight Rugby World Cup Sevens athletes are two try-scoring machines in Naya Tapper and Kris Thomas. Alev Kelter jumps back into action, as well, recovered from injury which left her out of the aforementioned World Cup. The entire bunch will be guided by a new pair of co-captains in Nicole Heavirland and Lauren Doyle.
USA will open the new season with a match-up against Rugby World Cup Sevens Challenge Trophy winner England on Saturday, Oct. 20. England finished eighth at the last World Series having only faced the Women’s Sevens once at Sydney Sevens 2018 for a 24-28 win.
China will be next on the docket, having finished 12th at both the World Cup and World Series 2018.
The Women’s Sevens will close out Pool B with a match-up against recent World Cup Champion New Zealand, a similar circumstance they faced in last year’s World Series opener at Dubai Sevens. Back then, the U.S. fell to the Black Ferns Sevens in pool play only to come back in the Cup Quarterfinals to launch a match-winning conversion that ultimately punched their ticket to the tournament Final.
Though the New Zealand side will certainly pose a grueling threat, the USA is no stranger to going toe-and-toe with the harshest of competition.
Hear it from General Manager of Women’s High Performance, Emilie Bydwell
On opening the season at home…
“We are very excited to be back on home soil kicking off the World Series. It is always very special for the players to play in front of their friends and family, and to have the opportunity to start the Olympic qualification season with that support is amazing. We know this will be a difficult year, but the team and our program have set our sights on Top 4 and World Series qualification.“
On the debutantes …
“The debutantes for this stop speak to the strength of the pathway and competitions this summer. Lauren was identified at the National Development Academy tournament and local club competition playing for Santa Barbara Academy and then quickly turned to represent the USA at the age-grade level…. Alena and Steph excelled at the Club Sevens Nationals Championship, that competition structure supported their journey to this selection by giving valuable minutes and experience in a ‘bridge’ type competition.“
Hear it from Interim Head Coach Chris Brown
On training over the past several weeks…
“As a traveling group we are looking forward to the challenge of representing the squad as a whole that has diligently been grafting away this past 6 weeks. We have been installing new frameworks and philosophies and the progress we’ve seen is at a level where we are excited to express ourselves with confidence, while fully recognizing we are in a foundation installing period.”
On team mentality heading into the tournament…
The desire to learn and progress on and off the pitch has been first class which has also had a heavy focus on inclusion while not washing over the non-negotiables around expectations. It excites me personally to be able to lead in Denver for the first time.“
To Sum it Up
The HSBC USA Women’s Sevens Glendale will mark the start of Olympic qualification for the United States. With the Series serving as the principal route for qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the top four teams at the conclusion of the season will be first to seal their place.
With most of the core team returning in Glendale, three competition-hungry players joining the group and new Interim Head Coach Chris Brown leading the charge, the Women’s Eagles Sevens are set for smashing debut at home.
The tournament runs Oct 20-21 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado’s rugby epicenter. Tickets start at only $15 with Beerfest and VIP packages also available at usawomens7sglendale.com.
Women’s Eagles Sevens Roster
All players are part of the Women’s Sevens residency program.<
1. Abby Gustaitis
2. Cheta Emba
3. Jordan Gray
4. Nicole Heavirland (C)
5. Alev Kelter
6. Lauren Doyle (C)
7. Kris Thomas
8. Naya Tapper
9. Alena Olsen*
10. Lauren Thunen*
11. Stephanie Rovetti*
12. Ilona Maher
13. Kasey McCravey*
*First HSBC World Sevens Series appearance.
Women’s Eagles Sevens Staff
Interim Head Coach | Chris Brown
Athletic Trainer | TBA… We know it’s not Junoir Blaber.
Team Manager | Liz Strohecker
HSBC USA Women’s Sevens Glendale Schedule
Pool B | Streamed LIVE exclusively on FloRugby
Sat, Oct. 20 – 11:14 AM
Sat, Oct. 20 – 1:58 PM
vs New Zealand
Sat, Oct. 20 – 5:04 PM
All times local U.S. Mountain Time.
Where USA Stands (based on 2018 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series)
HSBC World Series Standing
Most Points by a Team
Most Tries by a Team
Most Conversions by a Team
Most Points by a Player
Alev Kelter, 4th (168)
Most Tries by a Player
Naya Tapper, 4th (26)