Doyle looks for repeat performance in China

BOULDER, Colo. – Lauren Doyle’s last-minute try against South Africa in pool play at Houston Sevens last month put the Women’s Eagles Sevens on the path to the Cup final during the most recent stop on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series. Doyle’s three tournament tries elevated her to 25th on the IRB’s list of top try-scorers with four.

Houston served as a breakout performance for Doyle and the team, and further engrained a team culture that seems to be serving the squad well.

“Houston was an awesome tournament for us as a team and I think we discovered a lot about ourselves,” Doyle said. “Individually, I figured out what my role on the team was; I’m a finisher.”

Though she played volleyball, basketball, soccer and track in high school, Doyle was recruited to play rugby at Eastern Illinois University. She stepped into club sevens one summer with Chicago North Shore and was offered entrance into the USA Rugby Residency Program for sevens in 2012.

“When we first saw her at camp a couple of years ago, I didn’t think she was ready,” Suggitt said. “She probably realizes she wasn’t. After being away at school for a bit and getting hooked playing summer sevens, I think she found a real enjoyment in it.

Suggitt has watched her mature into a player ready for international competition and seen her “quiet confidence” become the breakout element he was looking for.

“She’s not a big talker or anything, she’s just going to go out there and do it. At the end of the day I’m just happy to hear her laugh. She works hard and all of a sudden this laugh comes out, and I know she’s finding enjoyment in the game.”

The Women’s Eagles Sevens will need multiple performances like Doyle’s in Guangzhou later this month as they look to improve their standing in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series. Currently sixth with 22 points, the Eagles are just 12 points behind New Zealand at the top of the standings thanks to the 18 points picked up in Houston.

“We view our game film and analyze each team, offense and defense, then we set up our attack sheets and study them,” Doyle said of her team’s preparations ahead of Guangzhou Women’s Sevens. “We try to replicate it all in practice. I think we’ve prepared well for this tournament.”

With Rugby Sevens one of the newest additions to the Olympic Program, Doyle is on track to perhaps be amongst the first women to medal in a rugby event at an Olympic Games at Rio 2016. She has not forgotten her history with the 15-a-side game, however.

“I haven’t necessarily considered moving to the 15s team and I haven’t been asked to go,” Doyle said. “I haven’t played 15s in a while and I’ve gotten really used to sevens, so I think it could be good for me to go back to fifteens and see what it’s all about.”

Doyle was with the USA Stars at the Las Vegas Invitational, held alongside the Vegas Sevens men’s tournament. The Women’s Eagles Sevens were split into two teams, the USA Stars and USA Stripes, just a week after the grueling tournament in Houston. The Stars took home the Plate, while the Stripes finished third in the Women’s Elite 7s Division.

“We work really hard at the OTC to function as a team and work as a unit, so being split into two teams and playing with new players was very challenging,” Doyle said. “Las Vegas was difficult, but still fun – still rugby.”

The jump from 15s to sevens was not too hard for Doyle, and each of the Women’s Eagles Sevens players have benefited from the Olympic Training Center and the Residency Program. Head Coach Suggitt also has something to do with some of the success, according to Doyle.

“He’s a much different coach than I’ve had in the past,” she said. “He’s very vocal and really knows how to get us riled up and make us play to our full potential – even in practice. I really like his coaching style and I think it works for our team.”

Suggitt’s coaching style, which has been honed through years of coaching Rugby Canada’s men’s and women’s teams, has helped put the Women’s Eagles Sevens within striking distance of this year’s Women’s Sevens World Series title and in a prime spot for a high seed at the 2016 Summer Olympics. As any good coach would do, Suggitt deflected the praise onto his players for their play.

“They’re not a team with any built-in excuses,” he said. “They work really hard at the Olympic Training Center, they get pushed to the limit quite a bit and they just respond.”

Look for the Eagles’ response in China from March 30-31 at Guangzhou Women’s Sevens, where they will face Fiji, China and fellow Houston Sevens Cup-finalists England. The Guangzhou Women’s Sevens will be live-streamed online on the official IRB website. Also follow USA Rugby’s coverage of Guangzhou through Twitter (@USARugby) and Facebook.

Eagles Schedule | Guangzhou Women’s Sevens
vs. Fiji – 10:22 P.M. ET Friday, March 29
vs. China – 12:44 A.M. ET Saturday, March 30
vs. England – 3:04 A.M. ET Saturday, March 30