(ISN) – CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The Women’s Eagles Sevens’ roster for Atlanta 7s – the third leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – has been announced.
Ric Suggitt has made two changes to the São Paulo Sevens Plate Finalist team. Bui Baravilala returns to the program for the first time since Amsterdam Sevens during the inaugural season in 2013, while Kate Zackary will make her Eagles debut at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University.
Baravilala, 21 at the time of her last Series appearance, rejoined the national team setup in 2014 ahead of the Women’s Rugby World Cup held in France. In two tournament appearances, her speed, strength, and rugby smarts led to Baravilala scoring two tries and four conversions for 18 career points on the circuit. She also represented the U.S. in sevens competition prior to the Series’ formation.
“We know that she’s not anywhere near where she’s going to be in a year’s time,” Suggitt said. “When she was at her best when she was playing early for us, I honestly believed she was one of the top three players in the world.
“Everyone knows of her potential, of her physical attributes. What we’re really hoping now is she finds that joy and passion in the game and brings it back.”
While Baravilala played at last month’s Las Vegas Invitational, Zackary and other members of the Eagles joined the Serevi Selects team in Las Vegas for match time. Upon their return to the Olympic Training Center, Suggitt and the Eagles’ coaching staff held an elite camp Feb. 22-27 with capped Eagles Baravilala and Irene Gardner in attendance, as well as AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American Natalie Kosko and Girls High School All-Americans powered by Serevi selection Richelle Stephens.
“Kate’s a very hard, aggressive runner, and she’s still learning the game,” Suggitt said. “She’s a total team player and I thought that she did well in Vegas and she’s done well [in camp].”
A top-four place in the Series standings at the end of the season would qualify the U.S. for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, though the NACRA Sevens Regional Qualifier in Cary, N.C., in June will offer the Eagles a second opportunity to qualify.
The Eagles won the Plate at Atlanta 7s in 2014, beating China, England, and Spain in the process. Currently in sixth following a win in the seventh-place match at Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens and a loss in the São Paulo Sevens Plate Final, Suggitt’s Eagles are looking for improved play in front of home fans in Atlanta.
“Hopefully the weather is nicer this year and we get a few more bums in the seats,” Suggitt said. “For us, going to Atlanta is excellent. We were treated like royalty there – now hopefully we’ll do better than we did last year. I think we’re very capable of it.”
Kelly Griffin will again captain the side, which was drawn in Pool A with familiar foes New Zealand and Russia and Series newcomer South Africa. Match day one begins Saturday, March 14, with the knockout rounds of Atlanta 7s held Sunday, March 15.
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Atlanta 7s
1. Megan Bonny
2. Kelly Griffin (C)
3. Kathryn Johnson
4. Bui Baravilala
5. Jessica Javelet
6. Kristen Thomas
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Alev Kelter
9. Hannah Lopez
10. Kate Zackary
11. Joanne Fa’avesi
12. Lauren Doyle
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Coaching Staff
Ric Suggitt – Head Coach
Richie Walker – Assistant Coach
JoAnne Kos – Team Manager
Dr. Lisa Bartoli – Team Physician
Nicole Titmas – Physiotherapist
Jared Siegmund – Strength & Conditioning Coach
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Atlanta 7s
v South Africa – Saturday, March 14 – 1:50 p.m. ET
v Russia – Saturday, March 14 – 4:34 p.m. ET
v New Zealand – Saturday, March 14 – 6:56 p.m. ET