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McCoy Selects Dubai 7s Squad

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McCoy Selects Dubai 7s Squad

USA 7s Eagle Kelly Griffin (Photo: Martin Seras Lima / World Rugby)

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Women's Eagles Sevens Head Coach Jules McCoy has selected her first touring team for the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which kicks off Thursday, Dec. 3, at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Jillion Potter will make her first appearance for a USA Rugby national team since her four caps at Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 in France, while Richelle Stephens and Nia Williams will receive their first circuit caps wearing the U.S. jersey.

McCoy recently updated the Residency program roster at the United States Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center, expanding the total number of full-time athletes to 25 less than nine months from Rugby Sevens' debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

While Stephens and Williams helped lead the USA Rugby AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans Sevens to an Elite City Sevens title in August – and the former won a silver medal at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and a NACRA Sevens Championship – neither have previously been selected to a Series stop.

"The selection process is always difficult – more than 12 players always deserve to dress out," McCoy said. "We look to build depth by getting newer players exposed to the rigors of circuit play, but also provide stability. Series tournaments will be used primarily for Olympic build-up opportunities, to identify combinations that might work best for us come August."

Potter will captain the team in Dubai, flanked by fellow veteran Kelly Griffin and a team not dissimilar to any one of the Eagles sides that toured during the 2014-15 Series. Despite battling a form of cancer over the course of the past year, Potter visited the OTC and the Eagles at Atlanta 7s and the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships, and trained as much as was allowed while recovering from treatment.

The Colorado native's presence on the pitch was instrumental in the Eagles' early Series successes, as well as the team's bronze-medal performance at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013. Off the pitch, Potter is influential in keeping spirits high and motivation on track as the Eagles enter an Olympic year for the first time.

"Jill has always been the consummate professional, but getting her back to the OTC full time is truly a blessing," McCoy said. "Jill has learned first-hand that opportunities like these only come once in a lifetime, so every day we see that big smile reminds us all that we should be thankful we get the opportunity to be part of history."

Lauren Doyle scored 105 points for the Eagles during the 2014-15 Series to bring her career total to 180, and will be one of several pacey threats on McCoy's team in Dubai. Kristen Thomas of University of Central Florida turned heads with her speed on debut last season, and former USA Field Hockey national team selection Jessica Javelet returns to the setup to terrorize opposition defenses. The University of Louisville graduate scored 24 tries in just five tournaments in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

"We have been practicing a new approach to attack and defense, as well as spending time on our mental prep, with the mindset that we will make daily progress," McCoy said. "The men's coaching staff have embraced me here at the OTC, and are helping me get on my feet, and the players seem eager as they work to embrace a different approach.

"We are all enjoying the challenge laid before us, and have every intention of rising strong."

The Eagles finished the last Series in fifth, one place shy of an automatic qualification spot for Rio 2016. Along the way, they beat each of the top-four teams at least once, highlighted by a 34-5 defeat of Series Champion New Zealand in the final leg in Amsterdam.

Canada, Fiji, and Ireland await the U.S. in Pool B in Dubai. Last season, Fiji beat the Eagles in the Plate Semifinals, though the U.S. went on to win the next two meetings between the two. Canada, which finished the Series in second, won four of five matchups on the season, while Ireland did not make an appearance on the circuit in 2014-15.

Women's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens
1. Kathryn Johnson
2. Kristen Thomas
3. Jillion Potter (C)
4. Alev Kelter
5. Jane Paar
6. Nia Williams
7. Lauren Doyle
8. Kate Zackary
9. Kelly Griffin
10. Megan Bonny
11. Richelle Stephens
12. Jessica Javelet

Women's Eagles Sevens | Coaching Staff
Jules McCoy - Head Coach
Nicole Titmas - Athletic Trainer, Certified
JoAnne Kos - Team Manager
Dr. Lisa Bartoli - Doctor
Jared Siegmund - Strength and Conditioning Coach

Women's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens
v. Ireland - Thursday, Dec. 3 - 3:42 a.m. ET
v. Fiji - Thursday, Dec. 3 - 6:38 a.m. ET
v. Canada - Thursday, Dec. 3 - 9:13 a.m. ET