Falcons, GHSAAs powered by ATAVUS cross border for Vancouver Rugby Festival

VANCOUVER - The USA Rugby Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS are in British Columbia, Canada, this week for their first competitive rugby of the year at the Vancouver Rugby Festival.

The USA Falcons women are also in town for the sevens competition while the Men's Eagles Sevens take to the stadium pitch at BC Place for HSBC Canada Sevens, held March 12-13. The Festival matches will be played at Gerald McGavin Rugby Center at the University of British Columbia Thursday, March 10, and Friday, March 11.

GHSAA Assistant Coach and capped World Cup Eagle Emilie Bydwell will coach the team in the U18 Girls Division, in which pool matches against BC, BC Development, Edmonton Gold, and Rugby WA Loggers will be played Thursday.

Lily Durbin and Mata Hingano have been a part of the women's national team pathway for several years, attending Stars and Stripes Camps and 2015 touring parties of the inaugural GHSAA teams. Both were part of the first GHSAA sevens team that won last year's Las Vegas Invitational - and Durbin returned to Las Vegas with ATAVUS' senior side in the Elite Women's division - and will captain the team in Vancouver this weekend.

Vancouver Rugby Festival tournament website

"Lily and Mata lead in different ways and we feel that the combination of the two of them is perfect to lead the group of athletes we have here," Bydwell said.

Eleven of the 12 young women selected attended one of the GHSAA regional camps, held this winter in Casa Grande, Ariz., and Clermont, Fla., while several carry multiple years of Stars and Stripes Camp experience into the team. Five girls play rugby in California, with eight states in total represented.

Following the team's performance at Vancouver Rugby Festival, the GHSAA staff will convene to discuss selections for additional tours throughout the year, including 15s matches against Quebec and British Columbia sides in the summer. A sevens tournament in Europe is also on the horizon.

"We want to develop a strong pool for [the Europe] event," Bydwell said. "We believe we can compete there and the Vancouver event is the first step to that. We wanted to select a well-balanced squad that offers power, speed, work rate, and playmaking ability. We will provide the athletes with a framework through which they can express themselves and their athleticism. It will be exciting to watch.

"Finally, we are selecting athletes that have the potential to fast track through the age grades. We want to provide these athletes with competitive opportunities that prepare them for elite competition."

The Falcons, made up of athletes in the Women's Eagles Sevens player pool, traveled to Las Vegas for last weekend's Las Vegas Invitational, where they bowed out of the Women's Elite division in the Cup Semifinals. Their Semifinal opponent, a developmental team from France, is in the Vancouver Rugby Festival pool, as are development sides from fellow HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series participants Canada (Maple Leafs) and England (Team GB).

Olympic Training Center residents Emily Azevedo and Lauren Doyle have recovered from injuries to make the trip to Canada, while veteran Christy Ringgenberg has also been brought into the team. Hannah Lopez, Amy Naber, and Jane Paar wore ATAVUS All-Star jerseys at last weekend's LVI, and will get another opportunity to impress the national team coaching staff in Vancouver with the Falcons.

With less than a month before the Eagles grace the pitch at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University for HSBC Atlanta Sevens, the invitational sevens tournaments this month will go a long way towards building depth in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Andrew Locke will coach the team north of the border, with the team scheduled for two pool matches Thursday and one Friday ahead of the knockout rounds.

Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | Vancouver Rugby Festival

Ifeoma Agali - North Kansas City SNOW Girls Rugby (Missouri)

Cassidy Bargell - Summit High School (Colorado)

Kayla Canett - Fallbrook High School (California)

Lilly Durbin - Fallbrook High School (California)

Giovanna Ferguson-Lewis - Play Rugby USA (New York)

Bayleigh Gable - Grandville Girls Rugby (Michigan)

Kathleen Gearhart - Penn High School (Indiana)

Atumata Hingano - Danville Oaks High School (California)

Lolohea Makaafi - Kent Crusaders Girls Rugby (Washington)

Daisy Manoa - Danville Oaks High School (California)

Julie Riekena - Missoula Valley Vixens (Montana)

Brianna Vasquez - South Bay Spartans Girls Rugby (California)

Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | Coaching Staff

Emilie Bydwell - Head Coach

Shawn Pittman - Assistant Coach

Ashley Cowan - Physiotherapist

Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | Vancouver Rugby Festival

v. BC - Thursday, March 10 @ 10 a.m. PT

v. Rugby WA Loggers - Thursday, March 10 @ 11:40 a.m. PT

v. Edmonton Gold - Thursday, March 10 @ 2 p.m. PT

v. BC Development - Thursday, March 10 @ 3:20 p.m. PT

USA Falcons | Vancouver Rugby Festival

Emily Azevedo

Meya Bizer

Lauren Doyle

Carmen Farmer

Irene Gardner

Nicole Heavirland

Hannah Lopez

Amy Naber

Jane Paar

Christy Ringgenberg

Richelle Stephens

Kate Zackary

USA Falcons | Coaching Staff

Andrew Locke - Head Coach

Jared Siegmund - Strength and Conditioning

Nicole Titmas - Physiotherapist

USA Falcons | Vancouver Rugby Festival

v. Team GB - Thursday, March 10 @ 11 a.m. PT

v. Maple Leafs Red - Thursday, March 10 @ 4:20 p.m. PT

v. France - Friday, March 11 @ 11:20 a.m. PT