The Women Eagles 7s are coming off their best tournament to date where they finished second to Canada at the Sydney 7s. IT was a complete turnaround for the team after they finished in a very poor 11th place in Dubai. It's the type of Jekyll and Hyde performances that drive a coach nuts. At the same time the team showed a lot of good promise in Sydney and have plenty to build on heading into their home leg. They are coming off a good warm-up tournament in Okinawa where many of the regulars were involved. Expectations are high as they should be but there are still plenty of questions surrounding the team.
The Women's Sevens Series is so short that the slip-up in Dubai means they won't be contending for the overall title but with every year being a practice for Olympic qualifying the U.S. still have a chance of finishing in the top four. Right now they sit in the middle of the pack in sixth but and are only four points out of fourth. There are only three tournaments left after Vegas so they need a good showing.
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The Eagles will see the return of a few veterans, like Kelly Griffin, but overall keep the same group that did well in Sydney. This early in the Olympic cycle you want to have new players step in and become veterans. That is exactly what the likes of Nicole Heavirland, Naya Tapper, and Cheta Emba are doing. They are becoming huge parts of the team moving forward and much of the success in Sydney was due to their play. This go around they are going to need to back up that performance as well as get more contributions from veterans. If they can do that they will be okay.
Squad: Cheta Emba, Kelly Griffin, Kate Zackary, Nicole Heavirland, Ryan Carlyle, Alev Kelter (C), Naya Tapper, Kelsi Stockert, Nana Fa'avesi, Bulou Mataitoga, Kristen Thomas, Nicole Snyder
Ireland (11:17 a.m. et/8:17 a.m. pt): The Eagles have played Ireland twice before with mixed results. The first was a thorough 28-5 loss in the Challenge Trophy semi-finals in Dubai and then a 17-5 win in the Cup quarterfinals in Sydney. Ireland have struggled mightily this year and sit at the bottom of the standings of permanent teams.
Spain (2:02 p.m. et/11:02 a.m. pt): Spain are another team that have struggled. They've played in both tournaments so far and have less points that Ireland. The U.S. beat Spain 20-5 in pool play in Sydney. The U.S. haven't always had success against Spain but this year they seem to have a team that can find success against a smaller Spanish team.
Fiji (4:47 p.m. et/1:47 p.m. pt): Two years ago it would be assumed that the U.S. can beat Fiji but full credit to the Fijians who have improved a great deal since then. They justifiably sit in fourth place and should challenge the U.S. for the top spot in the pool. The U.S. usually play better as the tournament moves along so playing Fiji last should be good.
The Eagles have all the tools to make it to the final once again. They really seemed to hit on something special in Sydney with Naya Tapper proving very effective. If they can continue to find that form they they will be one of the top teams on the Series. However, the proof is in the pudding. One tournament is nice but unless it's followed up by consistent results it doesn't mean much. We think playing at home is just the boost they need to make the quarterfinals and push for a top four spot once again.