USA Rugby Names 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Rugby Team

UPDATE (6/19): Kelly Griffin named team captain, Cheta Emba and Nicole Heavirland added as travel reserves.

USA Rugby has announced the 12 athletes and eight staff members who will represent Team USA in the first Rugby Sevens competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"It is an exciting time for USA Rugby and I am very honored to name the first USA Women's Sevens rugby team to compete in the Olympics," said Walker. "Most of the players that I have selected have a considerable amount of experience. Every player has played on the Sevens World Series and some players have played 15s for the USA, as well."

This will also mark the first time women's rugby will be played at the Olympics, with all matches to be played at Deodoro Stadium Aug. 6-8. Head Coach Richie Walker's team includes veterans such as Texas native Jillion Potter, Kelly Griffin of California and Victoria Folayan of Massachusetts, while Richelle Stephens - the youngest player in the squad - has already represented her country on the Olympic stage at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Get to know Team USA 

"There has been a significant acceleration in work-rate, efficiency, and execution over the last couple of months," said USA Rugby High Performance Director Alex Magleby. "Richie and staff have brought a lot of clarity and connectedness to camp. We can't wait for the team to finally be rewarded with the opportunity to perform to our potential on this stage." 

Four athletes hail from the Golden State, where Olympic hopefuls train at the United States Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and a total of nine states are represented in the team (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Virginia).

Several athletes, like Alev Kelter and Jessica Javelet, have worn Team USA jerseys in other sports, but never at an Olympic Games. Six - Lauren Doyle, Joanne Fa'avesi, Griffin, Kathryn Johnson, Kelter, and Stephens - won silver in Rugby Sevens at last year's Pan American Games in Toronto, while Carmen Farmer, Doyle, Fa'avesi, Griffin, Kelter, and Stephens were members of the Women's Eagles Sevens team that clinched U.S. qualification for Rio at the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships.

In addition to silver medals from Toronto 2015, Folayan, Griffin, and Johnson carry bronze medals from World Rugby's Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, as does Potter. Originally named to the World Cup Sevens squad, Bui Baravilala was unable to compete in Moscow due to injury and replaced by Ryan Carlyle. Both players are nominated for the Rio team.

When asked about his decisions on the final roster, Walker replied, "I have selected a group with a wide variety of playing styles and I am excited to see them all come together and play for each other in Rio."

Kelly Griffin has been named captain of Team USA, a title she has held numerous times before on the Sevens World Series. Penn State alumni Meya Bizer and Montana native Nicole Heavirland have been named as travelling reserves.

Based on past results on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, Team USA was drawn into Pool A with Australia, Colombia, and Fiji for the Games. In 116 matches played since the Series began in 2012 - the fifth-most of any country - the U.S. has accumulated a 53-percent win rate with 61 victories and three draws. In 2015-16, the U.S. hosted one of the Series' five stops in Atlanta - host of the 1996 Olympic Games - and ended the season ranked sixth behind Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, and France, respectively.

The OTC in Chula Vista will continue to host Walker and the Olympic team until July 26, when they travel to Florida for a week-long training camp. The team departs Florida for Brazil July 29, before the Opening Ceremony Friday, Aug. 5. The Rugby Sevens competition kicks off Saturday, Aug. 6, at 10 a.m. ET, with the U.S.'s first game scheduled for noon ET.

A full broadcast schedule for the Rugby Sevens competition will be announced by NBC at a later date.

All nominations to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team are pending approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Women's Sevens Roster
Bui Baravilala
Ryan Carlyle
Lauren Doyle
Joanne Fa'avesi
Carmen Farmer
Victoria Folayan
Kelly Griffin (C)
Jessica Javelet
Kathryn Johnson
Alev Kelter
Jillion Potter
Richelle Stephens

Travel Reserves:
Meya Bizer
Nicole Heavirland

Richie Walker, Head Coach
Pete Steinberg, Assistant Coach
Jared Siegmund, Strength Coach
Nicole Titmas, Physio
Andrew Locke, Video Analyst
Dr. Lisa Bartoli, Team Doctor
Emilie Bydwell, Team Leader
Alex Magleby, Director of Rugby