The Stars & Stripes is the USA developmental squad and represent the younger and/or less experienced Americans in the 7s pool. Although they exited the pool play of the Women’s International 7s Invitational with a 1-2 record, the day was not without its victories.
Stars & Stripes started with a 12-5 loss to Netherlands followed by a 26-7 loss to Canada. The latter game sat at 7-all through the first half, and that’s not an achievement that escaped the team.
“They were on fire,” USA Women’s 7s assistant coach Jo Kos said. “They came out knowing they had nothing to lose. They also knew where Canada was going to pressure them on defense, baiting them into the sidelines, and they said, ‘Forget that. We’re going to penetrate through the center and get it wide. The only reason we didn’t win that one was because we didn’t really trust our passes out wide. Maybe Canada was baiting us in the middle a little too much and we didn’t stick with the gameplan. But they played really well against Canada, even though they took advantage of our few mistakes.”
The third game of the day always posed the Stars & Stripes’ best chance for a win, and the squad didn’t waste the opportunity. The day ended on a 36-5 victory.
“It’s not so much that everything came together [in the final game],” Kos said. “They penetrated the center and got the ball wide. That was our gameplan – that and coming up hard, creating turnovers with our defense. They were doing it the last two games but they had higher competition. The three mistakes that we made, Canada and the Netherlands capitalized on them. That was it.”
Kimber Rozier, Katie Lorenz, Amy Naber and Rebekah Siebach were among the try scorers, but Kos was particularly excited about Kaelene Lundstrum’s try early in the second half.
“We changed up some of our kickoffs, went to a different style,” Kos explained of the decision to start kicking deep. “We baited them right into our plan and Lundy was right there for the intercept try. It’s really nice when you set forth the plan, they execute it, and they execute it with an exclamation point.”
It was also interesting to see some of the 15s players debut on the 7s scene, like Jill Potter and Sylvia Braaten. If you’re used to seeing Potter at the back of a 15s scrum, you can expect to see more of her in a 7s front row, as she accounts for the eighth professional 7s player contracted for the year.
Potter doesn’t have much 7s experience, but she’s been playing rugby for a long time. “She’s a quick learner,” Kos said. “You tell her one thing she’s done wrong, she fixes it and does it 100%. She keeps up with the fastest girls and runs nice lines of support.”
When asked about Potter, USA Women’s 7s head coach Ric Suggitt said that he’d heard such positive commentary from fellow players and coaches for so long, that he had to go after her. She has great energy and a positive vibe, and makes a great addition to the OTC crew.
“They had a phenomenal day although score doesn’t reflect how well they played together as a team,” Kos concluded. “They’ve been building on things we’ve been working on for the last two weeks, getting those concepts down, and putting it out there on the field. Even though the scores didn’t go our way, the girls were smiling, doing their job, and working hard.”
It was a very promising day for the Stars & Stripes, and they’ll be competing for the Plate tomorrow along with the Maple Leafs, Brazil and Japan.