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Without Maher, Eagle Women Target Spanish Double

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Without Maher, Eagle Women Target Spanish Double

Naya Tapper has Nicole Heavirland outside. Photo Martin Seras Lima.

Champions from last week, the USA Women's 7s team will go into this week's tournament in Seville without their all-world player Ilona Maher.

Out due to COVID protocols, Maher will be tough to replace, as he unique combination of power, speed, size, and work rate helped drive the Eagles to the title in Málaga.

Sui A'Au comes in to replace her.

Head Coach Emilie Bydwell, however, has been expecting her players all to contribute, and that showed last week.

"It has absolutely been our goal to evolve and become a threatening unit that works together to disorganize the defense as quickly as possible," said the new USA coach. "That includes an emphasis on support and also a focus on each individual's point of difference and the role they play for our team.  We have spent time developing collective understanding around how different defensive pictures influence our choices and how we can make those decisions consistently under pressure."  

Still 4th in the World Series, the Eagles did inch closer to #2 France and #3 Russia. With teams taking their best four tournaments out of six scores for the World Series standings, the Eagles can make up a lot of ground, and along with the team approach, they have shown themselves to be a bit fitter than they were in the opening events. 

"Upon returning from Dubai, it has been a focus to increase our capacity and develop the physical attributes that are required to unlock this team's potential," said Bydwell. "I think this emphasis, player buy-in, and collective understanding regarding how we are trying to support has led to the improvements the fans are noticing in the team."

Basically, they are getting to the ball faster, able to make a big play and follow that up with another big play, and they play tenacious defense. 

They have also been tactically aware, keeping their width, and more often opting for scrums on penalties and free kicks.

"This has been a tactic our team and other teams on the Series have been using since before the Olympics," said Bydwell, although it is something we're seeing more and more. "We feel it provides us with a solid platform to strike off of. Penalty plays are also effective and we will develop moves that work for us over the next few months, but right now we want to leverage the attacking threats that we have in the backline with as much space as possible."  

The Eagles take on Portugal, England, and Canada in Pool A, with their first game, against the Portuguese, coming at 7:06AM ET on Friday. They have a very good shot at winning that pool and putting themselves in a strong position to challenge for another tournament win. We asked Bydwell about the fact that New Zealand and Fiji are not in Spain, and they somehow managed to skirt around a tough Australia team because Russia upset the Aussies last week.

"We are looking forward to the opportunity to face those teams," she said. "Hopefully we will get a chance to see Aus over the course of this coming weekend. From our perspective, if we can continue to build off the performances we have in Málaga and operate as a unit on both sides of the ball we will put ourselves in positions to be successful against those teams.  Ultimately it will come down to our ability to commit to each other, our plan, stay composed and in control under pressure and empty our tanks to grind out results."

USA Women's Roster for Seville 7s
1. Cheta Emba Prop/Hooker 18
2. Suiluana A’au Prop/Hooker 2
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf 11
4. Nicole Heavirland Scrumhalf 24
5. Lauren Doyle (C) Flyhalf/Center 31
6. Alena Olsen (VC) Scrumhalf 6
7. Naya Tapper Prop/Wing 24
8. Jazmine Gray Wing 3
9. Alex Spiff Sedrick Hooker/Fly Half 3
10. Mata Hingano Prop/Hooker 3
11. Kristen Thomas Hooker/Prop 29
12. Kristi Kirshe Center/Wing 9
13. Sarah Levy Hooker 1
USA Women’s Sevens Traveling Staff    
Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell    
Assistant Coach | Zack Test    
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas    
Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford    
Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl