It’s been a month and a half since the USA Women’s 7s team competed at the Dubai 7s, and when they returned home, they were less than satisfied with their performance abroad.
“We lost to Canada 36-0, England 30-0 and Australia 22-5,” USA Women’s 7s coach Ric Suggitt recalled. “They were the top three teams – and that doesn’t include the Black Ferns [who weren’t in attendance], and France and Netherland, which weren’t in our pool. We need to recognize where we are in the pecking order. We’re getting beat like that right now, so we’ve got some building to do.”
That building process took its next step during last week’s High Performance players camp in Florida, where 32 7s pool players were joined by 54 15s and 42 All American players. The assembly was a developmental camp, but Suggitt also used it to choose his two squads for the Women’s International Invitational 7s, which will occur alongside the USA 7s tournament in Las Vegas February 10-12.
“I was looking for 24 healthy players,” Suggitt said of his goals during camp. “As we move forward, we can hopefully put it together and finish in the top two spots. We set the target high for ourselves … but we realized we have a long road ahead of us. We’re not fooling ourselves, but we’re excited.”
In attendance at last week’s camps were the eight contracted players who will be taking up residency in Chula Vista’s Olympic Training Center this week. Suggitt himself will be relocating to California on Monday while the rest of the squad trickles in. Vanehsa McGee and Kaelene Lundstrum are already en route, and once the full roster arrives, they’ll begin training the week following.
Las Vegas will be their first test, and the USA team will be supplemented by the Stars & Stripes side, which includes three of the younger contracted players.
“They’re good and young,” Suggitt said of the developmental side. “They might surprise some teams and finish in the top four.”
The official rosters for the Women’s International Invitational 7s will be released shortly, and we should see a handful of younger athletes, like Erica Cavanaugh, suiting up in the red, white and blue.
“She’s been in the All American, 15s and 7s pools, and she got her invite,” Suggitt said. “She’s putting her whole heart and soul into USA rugby. It goes to show that if you attend these camps and put in a solid effort, then you’ll get recognized.”
We might also see some non-traditional 7s athletes filling out the rosters, as Suggitt was able to exchange players with 15s head coach Pete Steinberg and Collegiate All American coach Martha Daines during camp.
Daines lent four of her athletes to scrimmage against the 7s players, and he was particularly impressed with U20 stars Ashley Okonta (Notre Dame) and Meya Bizer (Woodlands, Texas). He also worked with 15s players Jill Potter, Lynelle Kugler and
Sylvia Braaten, all of whom left a lasting impression with Suggitt. Meanwhile, the 7s coach sent Steinberg eight of his players – including Katie Dowty, Amy Daniels and Sadie Anderson, all of whom were on the Nations Cup squad this summer – to work with the 15s pool.
“I joke with Pete and Martha that I’m here to steal all their good players,” Suggitt said. “Hopefully I can help them [the players] out in the open field with decision-making and recognizing situations better, and they can bring something back to the 15s program. We’re very good about talking and sharing information on players. There’s no closed door.
“We’re trying to get more international competitions for our rugby athletes,” Suggitt continued. “With the 15s, they’ll have one maybe two tours this year, so we have to offer other avenues.”