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Eagle Women Select For Dubai

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Eagle Women Select For Dubai

Nicole Heavirland is co-captain. Ian Muir photo

CHULA VISTA, CA. - After opening their Olympic qualifying year in second-place, the Women's Eagles Sevens depart for the second stop of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series at Dubai Sevens, Nov. 29-30.

Last year, the Eagles did in Dubai what we saw in Glendale - start off slowly, and then pull off a huge victory.

To open the inaugural HSBC USA Women's Sevens 2018 in Glendale, the Women's Sevens suffered a devastating 10-12 loss to England with a try on the final whistle, only to narrowly defeat China 24-21 before they fell to New Zealand 12-35. They made the Cup Quarterfinals by having a point differential that was one point better than Spain's.


But the next day the Eagles upset Australia, and secured a dramatic win over France to make the final against New Zealand. That mirrored the 2017 Dubai 7s in which the Eagles upset New Zealand, and made the final before losing to Australia.


The Dubai bound squad will see two changes made from Glendale with Ashlee Byrge earning her debut and Joanne Fa'avesi back in the mix.

In addition, news has come that Ryan Carlyle has retired from international rugby.

"I'm incredibly humbled to have been a part of the conception of this program and amazed at how far it's come," said Carlyle. "I want to thank USA Rugby for giving me the opportunity to pursue the greatest dream a young athlete can have--to represent their nation at the highest level. Nothing will come close to giving me the same feeling of pride and honor as wearing the USA jersey did for me the past eight years."

Byrge will make her first appearance on the World Series circuit after competing in several competitions with the developmental Falcons side.

"Ashlee is an individual that's been fighting for an opportunity for a while," said USA head coach Chris Brown. "Her consistency of application over the past month alongside her enhancement in game understanding has seen her advance into the Dubai squad. When it comes to consistency of training intent we can always count on Ashlee being one of the examples to follow. This is an important trait when we look at the culture our group is trying to enhance and embed as a new norm."

Similarly -- and with sevens fans across the globe still feverish from her heroic try last tournament -- Alena Olsen will jump back into the fold prepared to build on her achievements in Dubai. Olsen's try was the first ever of her senior national team career after the athlete spent months growing within the sevens program.

Like Olsen, Ilona Maher became a fast sensation as she crossed the tryline game after game to close out her home stop as the second highest try scorer of USA Sevens. Maher scored in four out of the six matches contested including a hat trick against Olympic Gold medalist Australia.

Heading into Dubai Sevens in Pool B, the USA women will face China at 4:06 AM ET, England at 7:02 AM ET and Australia at 9:59 AM ET on Thursday, Nov. 29. This is very similar to Glendale, where the USA faced China, England, and New Zealand in pool play.

"We have a challenging pool again. Australia are Olympic Champions for valid reasons and are a classy outfit especially with core players returning from injury," said Brown. "England have depth coming out its ears through the backing of their professional league and age group system, and China have a number of players returning and are under the guidance of a very good coach in Chad Shepherd. Ultimately our progress will depend heavily on how we execute as a unit. We saw in Glendale how if our intent is right, we focus on the task at hand, and our defensive system executes, even when we only have 30% of the ball we can still come away with a result. That's a testament to the collective fight of this group and the buy-in to what has been our major focus to start this season."


Women's Eagles Sevens Roster

1. Joanne Fa'avesi

2. Abby Gustaitis

3. Cheta Emba

4. Ilona Maher

5. Kristen Thomas

6. Ashlee Byrge*

7. Lauren Doyle (Co-Captain)

8. Alena Olsen

9. Alev Kelter

10. Nicole Heavirland (Co-Captain)

11. Naya Tapper

12. Stephanie Rovetti

*First HSBC World Sevens Series appearance.

Women's Eagles Sevens Staff

General Manager | Emilie Bydwell

Head Coach | Chris Brown

Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas

Team Manager | Liz Strohecker