Falcons in Okinawa invitational ahead of USA Sevens
UPDATE | February 17
Bulou Mataitoga was unable to travel to Japan with the USA Falcons. The team will compete in the Okinawa Sevens invitational tournament with an 11-player roster.
CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Capped Women's Eagles Sevens resident Kate Zackary will captain a USA Falcons side in this weekend's Okinawa Sevens invitational tournament in Japan.
Andrew Locke will serve as the Falcons' head coach against HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series competitors Australia, France, and Japan, as well as the Netherlands at Shimonoba Cape Ball Park. The six-team tournament - Japan will field two sides - will play out in round-robin style, with teams playing each opponent once prior to seeded Finals Sunday evening.
Including Zackary, there are five members of the Women's Eagles Sevens squad that won the silver medal at HSBC Sydney Sevens earlier this month traveling to Okinawa. Player of the Final Naya Tapper is among them having had a breakout tournament in just her second Series appearance. The University of North Carolina graduate led the team in scoring with nine tries - tied for first in Sydney - and 45 points.
Cheta Emba worried defenses in Australia as another quick target for the Eagles, and was led on the attack by fellow Falcons Ryan Carlyle and Nicole Heavirland.
Originally selected for the second round of the Series, Bulou Mataitoga was a late withdrawal from the Eagles ahead of the trip to Sydney. She will pull on the Falcons jersey this weekend with yet-uncapped athletes Megan Foster, Samantha Pankey, and Kelsi Stockert. Tia Blythe is a newcomer to the international sevens scene with the Falcons, and is coming off of an 80-point, championship-winning season with Women's Premier League's San Diego Surfers as well as a 38-point campaign for the southern California club at the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships.
Of the Falcons' four international opponents in Okinawa, the Eagles have only played Rio 2016 Olympic summer Games gold medalist Australia in the first two legs of the Series. In addition to providing players with more game time, Okinawa Sevens will allow Locke and the coaching staff to evaluate the U.S. game plan against an array of unfamiliar opponents ahead of March 3-4's HSBC USA Sevens.
Though tournament organizers have not distributed any broadcast plans for the invitational tournament, Yomitan Beach Boys Rugby Football Club - a combined services and community rugby club based in Okinawa - has said it will live stream the Falcons' games on its Facebook page.
UPDATE: The Okinawa Sevens invitational tournament will be streamed live. Click here to access.
USA Falcons | Okinawa Sevens
1. Lilly Durbin
2. Cheta Emba
3. Megan Foster
4. Nicole Heavirland
5. Tia Blythe
6. Sam Pankey
7. Ryan Carlyle
8. Kelsi Stockert
9. Nicole Strasko
10. Naya Tapper
11. Bulou Mataitoga
12. Kate Zackary (C)
USA Falcons | Okinawa Sevens
v. Japan A - Friday, Feb. 17 @ 7:30 p.m. ET
v. France - Friday, Feb. 17 @ 11 p.m. ET
v. Japan B - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 2 a.m. ET
v. Netherlands - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 7:30 p.m. ET
v. Australia - Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 9:30 p.m. ET