USA back in Cup contention in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Richie Walker's Women's Eagles Sevens improved their standing in HSBC USA Sevens' Pool B Friday with a 22-7 defeat of Spain at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Captain Alev Kelter scored her third try of the tournament in the team's second match following a brace in the loss to Ireland Friday morning. Naya Tapper also scored for a second consecutive match, while Kate Zackary found the try zone twice in the win. The Eagles will finish pool play against Fiji, the only 2-0 team in the pool, at 4:47 p.m. ET on The Rugby Channel. A win is a must for the team if a Cup Quarterfinal berth is to be secured.


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"It's extremely important to do the little things right in every game every day, and just growing from the last game you played," Kelter said. "Every time you win you can always take something good from it. We still have a lot to improve and we're just focused on getting better."

Zackary brought the modest crowd to its feet in the first minute of the match as the Eagles converted their first possession, following a strong Joanne Fa'avesi run to be in the right spot for a pass from the breakdown to open the scoring. The try was not converted, and a disciplined attack by Spain stretched the U.S. defense over several minutes before Maria Losada found space along the touch line. She was chased from midfield by Zackary, but was able to dot down for a 7-5 Spain lead.

Go-forward runs from Kelter and Kelly Griffin opened a lane out wide for Naya Tapper in the sixth minute, but the Eagles were unable to provide the wing with clean ball. The U.S. won the ball back through a penalty in their own half, with Fa'avesi taking on half of the defense following the tap. The captain, true to form, was first to the breakdown after Nicole Heavirland's clear out to score from 70 meters.

The Eagles took the 12-7 lead into the break and almost conceded a match-levelling try with Spain's attack threatening the try line in the ninth minute. Ryan Carlyle made a flying tackle on Maria Ribera, forcing the ball out of the Spaniard's grasp and into Tapper's. The wing, though nearly 100 meters from the attacking try line, ran laterally before fending a defender ahead of the defensive 22 to run unhindered to the try zone.

Debutant Kelsi Stockert helped the Eagles extend the 19-7 lead after spinning out of a tackle from the ensuing restart, holding off her pass to Zackary on the wing until she could draw the defender. Zackary's 11th-minute try brought the final score to 22-7, but the first-timers on the Series - Samantha Pankey, Nicole Snyder, and Stockert - saw out the win with composed play in the set pieces and open play. The Eagles also had to deal with a player disadvantage in the final seconds as Kelter was shown a yellow card.

"The reserves are extremely important," Kelter reflected. "We brought everyone for a reason and we'll use everyone."

With second-round matches to be played in pools A and C, it is still too early to determine the Eagles' needs for Cup Qualification. Ireland's defeat to Fiji means there could potentially be three 2-1 teams in Pool B, so the U.S. will have to focus on a victory in their final match of pool play against Fiji. Match 13 of HSBC USA Sevens will kick off at 4:47 p.m. ET, with the live broadcast available on The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. Spain
1. Samantha Pankey
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Kate Zackary
4. Nicole Heavirland
5. Ryan Carlyle
6. Alev Kelter (C)
7. Naya Tapper
8. Kelsi Stockert
9. Joanne Fa'avesi
10. Bulou Mataitoga
11. Kristen Thomas
12. Nicole Snyder

Spain | v. USA
1. Maria Losada
2. Olivia Fresneda
3. Amaia Erbina
4. Patricia Garcia
5. Uribarri Barrutieta
6. Sabina Hurtado
7. Barbara Pla
8. Cristina Song
9. Maria Casado
10. Anne Fernandez de Corres
11. Iera Echebarria
12. Maria Ribera

Women's Eagles Sevens | 24
Tries: Zackary (2), Kelter, Tapper
Conversions: Kelter, Heavirland
Discipline: Kelter (Yellow)

Spain | 7
Tries: Lasada
Conversions: Garcia

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens
v. Ireland - L 24-21
v. Spain - W 24-7
v. Fiji - Friday, March 3 @ 4:47 p.m. ET