GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

Eagle Women Targeting Olympic Clincher in HK

irish rugby tours

Eagle Women Targeting Olympic Clincher in HK

Ariana Ramsey is psyched. Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

In order to clinch an automatic berth to the 2024 Olympics, the USA women's 7s team will need to end the Hong Kong 7s 20 points ahead of the 5th-place team in the World Series.

It's as simple as that. To ensure they finish in the top four, the Eagles need to be so far ahead going into the final tournament in Toulouse that even if they finish last, and the 5th-place team finishes first,they still stay in the top four.

Right now, the Eagles are 24 points ahead of 5th-place Ireland. So all they need to do is stay about the same as the Irish—no more than places behind in Hong Kong. Since the USA has finished third in four of the five played tournaments and Ireland has finished 4th three times and lower two other times, it's pretty likely the Eagles will get the job done.

This would be a remarkable achievement for the team and a huge benefit to the program in general.

The Eagles will have to do it without Ilona Maher, who injured (broke?) her ankle and without Sammy Sullivan, who is, remember, in the United States Army and sometimes has to pass on 7s tournaments because of her job.

Maher will be out for Toulouse as well and she has a unique role in the team—her power, her work rate, and her pace in combination lead to her changing the momentum in games. Sullivan's defensive and her aggression as much as anything else sparks the team emotionally.

An Easy Pool?

Nothing is easy in the World Series, and Spain is a tenacious team, true, but being in Pool C the USA has an excellent shot at making the Quarterfinals. They are pooled with rivals France, a team they have started to figure out a little bit, Japan, and Spain.

“We have it in the back of our minds that achieving certain results in pool play could result in automatic qualification for the Olympics," said USA Head Coach Emilie Bydwell. "While this is exciting, we can’t veer away from our process that has allowed us to be in the position that we are in. All three pool teams will provide us with a different challenge and we will need to put our best foot forward from game one, minute one."

A Difficult Next Step?

Where the Eagles have had trouble is Australia and New Zealand. Bydwell told GRR in Los Angeles that she felt the team was making progress in beating Australia, but in the semifinals in Vancouver, Australia dominated 38-0. It was a learning experience, says Bydwell, and certainly the goal is to be more consistently on part with Australia, and to catch New Zealand.

Of course, everyone is chasing New Zealand, which has won four straight tournaments. In three of those finals they won by 17, 26, and 35 points. Only the last one was close, 19-12 over Australia.

What can the USA do to get there? Fewer mistakes, being more powerful over the ball, taking space away ... in the end they sound so basic, but it's not that simple.

Who's In?

Alex Sedrick, who is a powerful tackler and can make things happen is a good replacement for Sullivan. She is versatile and smart. We could also see more of Ariana Ramsey. Steph Rovetti comes in for Maher and she is coming back from injury. Her ability as a interior back can fill in for Maher's ability to challenge defenses in the midfield. But the Eagles will need someone else to help dominate physically—Cheta Emba is the obvious choice.

But we will probably see Alev Kelter with the ball a bit more, and both Naya Tapper and Kristen Thomas working at prop a bit more.

USA Women’s Sevens Roster | Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
Name Position Tournaments
1. Cheta Emba Prop/Hooker 27
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf/Scrumhalf 19
4. Nicole Heavirland Hooker/Scrumhalf 33
5. Alex Sedrick Flyhalf/Center 10
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 14
7. Naya Tapper (C) Wing/Prop 31
10. Steph Rovetti Flyhalf/Center 8
11. Kristen Thomas Hooker/Prop 37
12. Kristi Kirshe Center/Prop 18
15. Alev Kelter Center/Flyhalf 37
21. Ariana Ramsey Scrumhalf/Wing 1
23. Lauren Doyle (C) Wing 37