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Eagle Women Selected for 7s Events in Spain

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Eagle Women Selected for 7s Events in Spain

Naya Tapper returns for her 24 tournament. Ian Muir photo.

CHULA VISTA, Calif.—Olympians return as USA Women's 7s Head Coach Emilie Bydwell names her side for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stops in Malaga and Seville, Spain, taking place Jan 21-23 and Jan 28-30.

Matches will be broadcast on NBC’s streaming platform Peacock.

Sarah Levy and Olympian Kayla Canett return for the first time since the Edmonton Fast Four event after competing with the Women’s Eagles in XVs for their Autumn Internationals; Levy will earn her first official World Series cap. Olympians Lauren Doyle, Nicole Heavirland and Kristi Kirshe all return to international sevens competition for the first time since the Tokyo Games.

Lauren Doyle and Alena Olsen lead as Captain and Vice Captain, respectively.

The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series held back-to-back tournaments in Dubai this past December marking the opening rounds of the new season. Coach Bydwell and the USA Women finished eighth in the first weekend and fifth in the second, putting them at fifth place overall with four rounds to go in 2022.

Ilona Maher led the team in numerous statistical categories following the second weekend of action including points, tries, runs and tackles; while she, Alev Kelter, Jazmine Gray and Naya Tapper were tied in clean breaks. Compared to other teams, the USA Women rank seventh in points scored and fifth in tackles, showing defensive improvement that will build as the season goes on.

Maher, the 2017 MA Sorensen Award-winner as the top collegiate player in the country (Quinnipiac), is joined by 2020 winner Spiff Sedrick (Life University).

Malaga Matchups

The USA is drawn in Pool B with rivals Canada, Poland, and Olympic bronze medalists Fiji. Canada are ranked 10th on the circuit after finishing 8th at both events in Dubai. Poland will play in their first World Series event this season, replacing New Zealand who cannot compete due to the travel impacts of COVID-19. Fiji have continued their hot streak from Tokyo by winning back-to-back silver medals in Dubai, holding the No. 2 position on the circuit and proving as a top team in the game.

“With only six World Series events this season, the next two tournaments will comprise the middle third of our season and will be important opportunities for us to define the next chapter for our team and take the necessary steps forward to build our platform for the 2022 Rugby World Cup," said Bydwell. “We will be focusing heavily on our ability to create line breaks, use momentum and field possession to inform decisions and improve our speed of support. Defensively, we will be looking to sure up our tackle completion, improve the integrity of our defensive shape and the speed at which we reconnect on transition play.”

(Note—Sui A'au is a late scratch for this team and Mata Hingano, a player GRR introduced you to back in 2017, has replaced her)

USA Roster to Spain (College program in parentheses where applicable):
Cheta Emba-Harvard
Ilona Maher-Quinnipiac
Kayla Cannett-Penn State
Nicole Heavirland-West Point
Lauren Doyle-Eastern Illinois
Alena Olsen-Michigan
Naya Tapper-North Carolina Chapel Hill
Jazmine Gray
Alex Sedrick-Life University
Mata Hingano-Life West
Kristen Thomas-Central Florida
Kristi Kirshe
Sarah Levy-Northeastern