The second leg of the Women's Challenge Cup in Hong Kong got off to a thrilling start, as the USA and Spain kicked off the competition. The intense match that the Eagle Women expected did in fact evolve, and the USA came from behind to win 8-5 in the second half.
The squad spent significant time preparing for Spain during camp, watching lots of video and reiterating kickoff receipts for the battle that was set to ensue.
“The first game is a must win,” USA Women 7s captain Deven Owsiany said in advance of the match. “If we don’t get Spain, then it’s going to be hard to get to the final. They have really high kickoffs and that’s their momentum builder. But we have Amy [Daniels] and Jill [Potter]. They’re super physical and tall in the forwards, and we’re working off them. As long as we get that kickoff, we’ll be good to go.”
The USA was tested early when Spain scored first for a 5-0 lead. The Eagles didn’t give up the subsequent kickoff but also couldn’t get the offense going enough to crack the scoreboard. The half ended with Spain in the lead.
The Eagles pulled it together in the second stanza and saw wing Vanesha McGee storm into the try zone. McGee was electric for the USA during the Women’s International 7s Invitational in Las Vegas, scoring six tries. But the drive to be better, stronger, faster is always at the forefront of the 7s star’s mind.
“There’s always a lot of stuff to work on,” McGee said last week during the Chula Vista camp. “The biggest things I’ve been working on recently are running my fastest in practice and running onto the ball at pace to pick up my speed a little bit.”
The work paid off. The USA’s defense remained patient, even as Spain started to work back into the Eagles’ half. Spain eventually surrendered a fatal penalty, which the USA converted for the 8-5 lead and the win.
With the much needed win in the bag, the USA prepares for Tunisia in the second round of playoffs. Should the Eagles win, they’ll be done for the day and move onto the Cup semifinals tomorrow. That game will likely be against Australia and occur inside Hong Kong Stadium.