Sunshine State prevalent in Women's Eagles Sevens squad for São Paulo Sevens

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The Women’s Eagles Sevens will continue their 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series campaign next month at São Paulo Sevens with two substitutes made to the squad that finished seventh in Dubai.

AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American Kristen Thomas of University of Central Florida will travel with the Eagles for the first time in her career. She joins fellow Floridian and WCAA Dana Meschisi, who will make her first appearance on the circuit this season.

“[Thomas has] good size, good speed, and she’s got a great attitude,” Suggitt said of his newest Eagle. “We’ve had her out here for about a half dozen camps already. We’ve just been monitoring her progress and were fortunate enough to get her out for the last half of her school year.

“She still has her classes that she’s going to take and she’s going to be able to finish off her degree, but that was the biggest concern for all of us – that she was able to do both. She’s been able to do that and we’re happy to have her out.”

Thomas and other prospective Eagles suited up in the BLK kit last week when the women’s sevens teams of Canada and Ireland trained at the Olympic Training Center. Two days of scrimmages put each squad to the test, with the second day featuring full, 20-minute matches one would play in a Cup Final.

“We were trying to get ready so the girls aren’t shocked with the energy systems and how fatigued you might get just from being in the Final,” Suggitt said. “Ireland and Canada are all over that, especially Canada; they’ve been in Finals and know what it’s like. That put us under immense pressure.

“We’re not consistent so with the change in personnel we needed to get that look and that feel to really see what it was like.”

The Eagles have only been in one Cup Final out of 10 total events since the Women’s Sevens Series began with the 2012-13 season. The Final was a home match for the Eagles at Houston 7s at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The inclusions of Meschisi and Thomas meant two players would not be traveling to Brazil, the home of the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games. The coaching staff revisited the team’s performance at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens and pinpointed one aspect of the game that could elevate the Eagles’ play.

“We looked at the speed of our team and sort of where we were going to go from there,” Suggitt said. “The main changes we made were based around speed and the speed of sevens.

“Everyone works pretty hard, but there are two tireless workers on our team and one’s Amelia [Villines] and the other is Lorrie [Clifford]. Dana’s been practicing really well and so has Kristen when she’s come in, and they’re both pretty quick.”

Lauren Doyle and Jessica Javelet will also bring pace to Suggitt’s roster, while Kelly Griffin will captain the squad in Brazil. Victoria Folayan, who leads the Eagles in scoring and sits fourth in the Series’ player points table with 35, has fully recovered from an injury sustained in Dubai and has been selected for the trip. Last year, the Eagles defeated the host at São Paulo Sevens – then the third leg of the Series after Atlanta 7s – to win the Bowl.

The Eagles are in Pool A with France, New Zealand, and Spain, and will kick off their scheduled matches against the Series leader Saturday, Feb. 7, at 9:06 a.m. ET. Each leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series will be free to view live on the World Rugby website. Live match updates will also be provided on Twitter by @USARugby.

Women's Eagles Sevens | São Paulo Sevens
1. Kathryn Johnson
2. Kelly Griffin (C)
3. Megan Bonny
4. Hannah Lopez
5. Jessica Javelet
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Alev Kelter
9. Joanne Fa'avesi
10. Dana Meschisi
11. Melissa Fowler
12. Kristen Thomas

Women's Eagles Sevens | São Paulo Sevens
v. New Zealand - Saturday, Feb. 7 - 9:06 a.m. ET
v. France - Saturday, Feb. 7 - 11:50 a.m. ET
v. Spain - Saturday, Feb. 7 - 2:34 p.m. ET