Last weekend, the USA Women’s 7s team won the Silver Medal in Toulouse, France, the final stop on the 2022-23 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The Eagles made podium appearances in six of seven tournaments, finishing third overall in the series standings, and were thus awarded a berth to the 2024 Olympics.
“The grit, resilience, work ethic, and selflessness that this team has shown over the course of the season has produced consistent results,” USA Women’s 7s head coach Emilie Bydwell told USA Rugby. “We used 18 players across the course of the season and grew tremendously as a group. Accomplishing our goals of top four qualification, exceeding 100 World Series points, and ultimately doing the work required to fortify our platform for the 23/24 season has built belief and fueled our commitment to not stopping now and really push forward to ensure that we we achieve our goals in 2024.”
During pool play, the Eagles beat Canada 26-19 and Poland 31-0, and lost to New Zealand 31-12. The USA advanced to the quarterfinals against Fiji and banked a 22-17 win.
“While we had some positive moments on the first day, we knew that we were going to need to take a step forward and improve our collective focus and execution of the details going into day two,” Bydwell said. “We produced some excellent segments in both the Poland and Fiji matches, but we knew that going into the semis [against] Australia, we were going to need to level up again to contain such a ruthless attacking team, and that’s exactly what our Highwomen did.”
Kristi Kirshe scored the Cup semifinal’s first try three minutes in, and that 5-0 lead held until halftime. Try machine Maddison Levi evened it up two minutes into the second half and then Teagan Levi’ conversion put Australia up 7-5. With little time on the clock, Naya Tapper tore past the defense for the game-winning and game-ending try, 10-7.
“That result means so much to us and shows the progress of this team over the last 12 months,” Bydwell enthused. “Even looking back at that game, we know how much better we can be and we are excited to drive forward over the next few months to make that happen. Also, winning the Australia game with all 12 players on our roster having an impact sets the tone for the type of team that we are building and the trust and confidence that we have in our whole roster.”
A rematch against New Zealand awaited in the Cup final. The Black Ferns had clinched the series title, but the Eagles were unintimidated heading into the Gold Medal match. The USA led 14-0 after five minutes, as Kirshe and Tapper both scored tries and Alena Olsen knocked over both conversions.
Properly stunned, New Zealand regrouped and put Stacey Waaka and Jazmin Felix-Hotham away for tries. Tyla Nathan-Wong’s conversion made it 14-12 to the U.S. and with four minutes to play. Waaka added her second try moments later and the conversion put the Black Ferns up 19-14 for good.
“Our Cup Final performance is the perfect way to end this season that has been defined by our team values, in particular worth ethic, courage, and resilience,” Bydwell said. “Our team leads with love in everything that we do, and we feel that’s really beginning to show on the pitch. We knew that we were going to need to play present and take everything one moment at a time, which resulted in a lead at halftime.
“For us, the progression is all around how we can continue to be more effective as a unit to create space, promote continuity, and ultimately make the appropriate tactical decisions in the moment to close out a final against the world’s best,” the coach closed. “While it sounds cliche, losing that final does more for us at this stage than winning it. There is no shortage of belief in this team and we are prepared to do the work required to take the next step.”
USA 7s @ Toulouse, France
Friday, May 12
USA 26-19 Canada
Tries: Tapper 2, Doyle, Kirshe
Cons: Olsen 2, Canett
New Zealand 31-12 USA
Tries: Sedrick, Olsen
Saturday, May 13
USA 31-0 Poland
Tries: Sullivan, Sedrick, Kelter, Emba, Rovetti
Cons: Canett, Kelter 2
USA 22-17 Fiji
Tries: Sullivan, Kelter, Thomas, Doyle
Sunday, May 14
USA 10-7 Australia
Tries: Kirshe, Tapper
New Zealand 19-14 USA
Tries: Kirshe, Tapper
Cons: Olsen 2