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An Influx of Offense Could Spark USA Women in Vancouver

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An Influx of Offense Could Spark USA Women in Vancouver

Alev Kelter and her points-scoring acumen is back. Photo Travis Prior for World Rugby.

Vancouver is the next stop for the USA Women's 7s team and there is some big news in the roster.

Back from her stint with Saracens in the UK is Alev Kelter. GRR caught up with Kelter in Los Angeles and she looked very happy to be back with the 7s team. The experience at Saracens was a very, very good one, she stressed, and was taken so she could prepare for the 15s Rugby World Cup last year. 

"I really hadn't played much 15s at all so I wanted to make sure I was prepared," she said. But, interestingly, she took a pay cut to play in the UK, and now with the drive for an Olympics berth the big goal in 7s, she's back. What Kelter adds is some offensive firepower. She breaks through tackles but is also elusive; she can kick (the USA's conversion rate is among the lowest on the World Series), and she's just plain not nice to play against.

Also back in camp with the USA is Ariana Ramsey. The former Atlantis star and MVP of the NIRA Final when she helped Dartmouth defeat Harvard for their second championship in as many years. An Olympian, Ramsey is taking a semester off from Dartmouth to add some firepower to the attack. When GRR caught up with her at the screening of The Pioneers TV show produced by HSBC, she was sitting and chatting with Jaz Gray, offering a tantalizing preview of a one-two speedster punch.

USA Women’s Sevens Roster | HSBC Vancouver Sevens

Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Cheta Emba Prop/Hooker 26
2. Ilona Maher Center/Prop 21
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf/Scrumhalf 18
4. Nicole Heavirland Hooker/Scrumhalf 32
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 13
7. Naya Tapper (C) Wing/Prop 30
11. Kristen Thomas Hooker/Prop 36
12. Kristi Kirshe Center/Prop 17
15. Alev Kelter Center/Flyhalf 36
21. Ariana Ramsey Scrumhalf/Wing 0
22. Sammy Sullivan Prop 4
23. Lauren Doyle (C) Wing 36


Ramsey has flown right into a USA squad that knows what it needs to do. Scoring tries is clearly their big work-on, and the addition of Kelter and Ramsey can only help the likes of Kristi Kirshe, Ilona Maher, and Sammy Sullivan, to name just three, shine. Meanwhile, the defense has been really strong—it has had to be. Head Coach Emilie Bydwell said the players take pride in their defense and it's been a big part of their game. More tries would be nice, though.

GRR also caught up with Bydwell, who added that little additional wrinkles in their pattern—making it a bit more sophisticated—is happening through the season. The plan was always to target this Olympic qualification, and in a way they have exceeded expectations. Bydwell expected her charges to challenge for a top four spot, but be clearly in their #3 position? It's hard to tell if she expected that or not.

What the team has been doing, said the coach, was taking the measure of their opponents. They knew they were chasing Australia and New Zealand, and in targeting not only an Olympic qualification berth but a spot on the podium, they know those teams are teams they need to compete with. The more they play those teams, the better they are in a position to beat them, said Bydwell, and that has been shown in Hamilton when the Eagles beat Australia. It took exposure to what Australia does to give the players the practical understanding of how to beat them. 

New Zealand? The Eagles have hardly played them. The two teams have met twice, once in Dubai and again in Hamilton. There's more to learn, said Bydwell.

Meanwhile, there are teams chasing them, with France being a bit of a bête noir in that they show one tendency, and then respond to the USA's tactics with changes.of their own. It's a teeth-rattling chess match writ large.

The players have been working enormously hard, added Bydwell, and they know they have a real shot at taking care of business before the series ends.

Currently New Zealand leads the World Series with 78 points, 12 ahead of both USA and Australia, who each have 66. (Australia is 2nd due to a better overall points difference). Sitting in that coveted 4th spot is France, 14 points behind the Eagles at 52. Ireland also has 52 but is losing out on the tiebreaker right now.

Those are the teams in with a realistic shot at the top four. If the USA gets on the podium in British Columbia, they might just unofficially close the door.