It's been a disappointing Atlanta 7s for the USA, who are 0-2 and scoreless so far through pool play. The Eagles began with a 31-0 defeat to Canada, who looked sharp and eager, followed by a 17-0 loss to Dubai 7s champion Australia. One more game awaits: China at 7:12 p.m. EST.
"You took the words right out of my mouth," USA Women 7s coach Ric Suggitt said of the disappointing start. "The girls have been training really hard, really smart at the OTC for the last six weeks. We've done our job on preparation ... there are no excuses. For our new players, they found out that everything has really taken off, and for our veterans, they still have to keep working hard and leading by example. That's happening. We took it on the chin for two games, so I'm as interested as you to see how they respond in the third game."
Defense has been the biggest bane of the Americans' game: falling off tackles and confusion on assignments have aided opponents' tries.
"You need to communicate a lot earlier on who you have," Suggitt recounted his instruction heading into round three. "Nominate who you have and finish your tackles. We’re tackling a bit too high, so we have to get back around the thighs, get them on the ground, and make a fair and equal contest for the ball. We're [tackling] high and uncertain; we need to talk to each other on the field and actually have a rugby conversation. It’s [about] being new and too quiet."
There are some new faces around the field - Amelia Villines, Megan Bonny, Rebekah Siebach, Dana Meschisi - they all signed 7s contracts in 2014. And so is Jessica Javelet, a football and field hockey crossover who's playing her first rugby ever. In her first game for the USA, Javelet tracked down Ashley Steacy at the USA's 22 meter, after the Canadian had taken the opening kickoff 50 meters down the field. And that wasn't the only breakaway that Javelet squashed, giving the hometown crowd ample opportunities to cheer.
“She’s courageous in defense, and when she learns the game - she’s almost our version of Carlin Isles,” Suggitt said. “She’s very quick, intelligent, fearless, all the attributes you want in an athlete. Five weeks with us and she’s our starting number five. … We find four or five more just like her, then that makes my job very enjoyable but also very tough. I want that. I want good-spirited competition for positions.”
The USA didn't spend much time with ball in hand, and a couple of breakaways could not be finished: Jill Potter broke through the middle of Canada's defense, offloaded to Deven Owsiany, who decided to cut back inside rather than pass out to an unguarded teammate; Christy Ringgenberg nearly scored against Australia but defense successfully cut off her outlet pass to Javelet; a brilliant individual effort from Vix Folayan saw her fend and spin to Australia's 22 meter, but support was slow and a penalty followed. Hopefully the USA can get a reaffirming win against China in the final round, but regardless, the Eagles will likely play for the Bowl tomorrow. The USA is 48 points in the hole, and it's unlikely they'll make it up against China.