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Veteran Leadership and Youth in Falcons in Japan

National Teams

Veteran Leadership and Youth in Falcons in Japan

Cheta Emba in training with the USA team in 2016. Jordyn Maultsby photo.

The USA Women's 7s program jas sent a USA Falcons team to Japan for the Okinawa 7s, to be held this weekend.

The team includes a number of players who cut their teeth in American high school and university teams. Lilly Durbin played for the USA at a 17-year-old, and was a standout for Fallbrook HS in Southern California - a region she was also a player for on the HS All-Star level.

Cheta Emba played for Harvard and was very close to an Olympic spot last year. Nicole Heavirland is a West Point rugby player who is starting to show flashes on the international stage.Megan Foster was a standout at Chico State before moving on to Life West. Ryan Carlyle was an accomplished athlete in many other sports before she found rugby while at South Carolina.  

Tie Blythe was a really strong player for the USA U19s over ten years ago. She went on to become an All American at UCLA and has been playing lights out in the club scene.Sam Pankey is one of the more veteran players. An accomplished basketball player, she picked up rugby at East Carolina and has been in the higher levels of the game for many years.

Kelsi Stockert began playing rugby as a freshman in high school for the Budd Bay Steelheads in Washington State. She was in the USA U20 program almost from the get-go and has continued her run, getting capped in 15s and being a huge part of the Seattle Saracens' success.  Nicole Strasko came to the game later in life, picking it up at Life University (see her story here).

Naya Tapper was the MVP of the last World Series 7s tournament, and showed her track pace in that event in Sydney. But she's a rugby player from way back, too, having started playing at North Carolina. Bulou Mataitoga was an All American at American International College, and stood out with the Falcons before. She was injured and missed Sydney.

And Kate Zackary will captain the team - she is one of only two on the team who didn't start playing while in college or high school.

This is, then, a young team, but one with some veteran leadership.

USA Falcons for Okinawa Sevens 
1. Lilly Durbin 
2. Cheta Emba 
3. Megan Foster 
4. Nicole Heavirland 
5. Tia Blythe 
6. Sam Pankey 
7. Ryan Carlyle 
8. Kelsi Stockert 
9. Nicole Strasko 
10. Naya Tapper 
11. Bulou Mataitoga 
12. Kate Zackary (C)

USA Falcons | Okinawa Sevens 
v. Japan A - Friday, Feb. 17 @ 7:30 p.m. ET 
v. France - Friday, Feb. 17 @ 11 p.m. ET 
v. Japan B - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 2 a.m. ET 
v. Netherlands - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 7:30 p.m. ET 
v. Australia - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 9:30 p.m. ET