Women's Eagles Sevens to kick off 2014-15 Series in Dubai

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The Women’s Eagles Sevens’ travel squad for the first leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens World Series has been announced.

Eagles Head Coach Ric Suggitt will award two new caps at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens as the U.S. looks to start off its Olympic-qualifying year with a top-five finish. Joanne Fa'avesi of Stars Rugby 7s impressed coaches at Stampede Sevens before she spent time playing abroad in Australia, where her play was noticed on the other side of the Pacific.

“We had two or three coaches who were noticing that she had the attributes we are looking for as a player,” Suggitt said. “We invited her out to a couple of camps at the Olympic Training Center and she’s held her own. As with anyone, they all have work to do, but she’ll be in the right environment to do it, that’s for sure.”

Western Oregon University graduate Melissa Fowler joined the Eagles and fellow Wolf Lorrie Clifford at the OTC earlier this year and will make her first appearance on the Series in Dubai. Clifford and Fowler played on the Wolves’ basketball team.

Jessica Javelet returns to the Eagles having fulfilled her duties in field hockey, which caused her to miss the final two legs of the 2013-14 Series. In just two appearances – at Atlanta 7s and São Paulo Women’s Sevens – Javelet recorded 12 tries and saved numerous others with her pace and assured tackling.

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Alev Kelter, Clifford’s high school classmate in Chugiak, Alaska, has also been selected for Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens. In all, five athletes with two or fewer caps will suit up in the United Arab Emirates.

Despite the relative inexperience, the Eagles have been hard at work preparing for this year’s Series. Should Suggitt’s team finish in the top four at the end of the year, they will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the first Games to include Rugby Sevens on the Olympic Program.

The Eagles hosted Brazil for a week at the OTC before spending an intense week of training and community outreach in Alaska. Earlier this month, 12 Eagles, including 10 of those selected to Dubai, were recruited to the Serevi Selects team at Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens tournament.

“We’ve seen a progression as far as their fitness and their functional strength,” Suggitt said of the offseason preparations. “What we still miss is that competitive environment. Until you actually live it, you don’t know it. We have good athletes that are pretty confident, but what we lack is that consistency in international competition.

“I don’t think they’re fully aware [of the pressure] yet. I think they’ll start to feel it once they start to play in international competitions. Once they start to play and get into Dubai and see where everyone’s at, they’ll really start to go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening. It’s happening right in front of my eyes. I better get going here.’”

A fourth-place finish in the inaugural, 2012-13 Series was followed up with a seventh-place finish last year, in which the Eagles earned five or more points in three of the five legs. New Zealand and Russia, first and fifth in the 2013-14 standings, respectively, are in Pool A with the Eagles and China.

“You’ve always got to be aware of what the opposition is capable of doing, but we always want to play the way that we want to play,” Suggitt said. “The girls are very analytical. They’ve become students of the game, which is very pleasing. It just comes down to what can you do with that 14 minutes on the field with all of the information that you have?”

The Eagles kick off their Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens and 2014-15 Series campaigns against Russia Thursday, Dec. 4, at 3:06 a.m. ET. The entire Series will be streamed live on the World Rugby website, while live match updates will be provided by @USARugby on Twitter.

Women's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens
1. Kelly Griffin
2. Amelia Villines
3. Kathryn Johnson
4. Hannah Lopez
5. Jessica Javelet
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Lorrie Clifford
9. Megan Bonny
10. Joanne Fa'avesi
11. Alev Kelter
12. Melissa Fowler

Women's Eagles Sevens | Non-traveling Reserves
Ida Bernstein
Bianca Dalal
Hannah Lockwood
Dana Meschisi
Jane Paar

Women's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens
v Russia - Thursday, Dec. 4 - 3:06 a.m. ET
v New Zealand - Thursday, Dec. 4 - 5:40 a.m. ET
v China - Thursday, Dec. 4 - 8:36 a.m. ET