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Finding breakout performancer to reward is the easy part, but narrowing them down is much more difficult. That’s why we went with two. There are many more who could have been considered, like Tim Stanfill, Danny Barrett, Meya Bizer and Harley Davidson, but ultimately we felt these were the most deserving of mention – Jessica Javelet and Perry Baker.
The speedstick, as dubbed by his Tiger Rugby mentors, took the Gold Coast by storm in October, scoring six tries in as many games. He was corralled well by defenses in the next tournament, Dubai, but rebounded with two more in South Africa. Even when he’s not scoring tries, he’s making defenses change the way they play and affecting the game off the ball, and he’s given the Eagles, along with Carlin Isles, something they’ve never had before – two world-class finishers who can spell each other.
Baker has been a phenomenal talent for years, drawing the attention of many since playing at Club 7s Nationals in the mid-2000s. However, it was only recently he committed to rugby after chasing a professional football career. Alex Magleby wanted to sign him to a residency contract when he was head coach.
Baker made a couple of appearances at Nationals with Daytona over the years, and in 2014 he returned with 1823 out of Columbus, Ohio. He was in Columbus as a resident at the Tiger Academy, where he spent several months honing his skills. He parlayed that development into a few high performance camps presided over by newly-minted 7s head coach Mike Friday, and eventually a contract. The rest is recent history.
You could say she’s been the closest thing to a Carlin Isles or Perry Baker for the women’s team, or you could say Baker and Isles have been the closest thing to a Javelet for the men’s team. Despite having played in just three tournaments, she's on the Women’s World Series’ all-time leaderboard for tries scored wth 16. Sure, the women’s tour is in just its second cycle, but Javelet has played in only three tournaments, avergaing over five a piece.
A field hockey All-American at Louisville and a field hockey coach after graduating from LU as valedictorian, obligations from her first sport saw Javelet miss the final two tournaments of the 2013/2014 Series after making her debut in Atlanta. Javelet started every game in her first tournament, scoring five tries.
Recruited to the sport via another crossover project, Liz Sowers, who recommended her to women’s head coach Ric Suggitt, Javelet may be more important for American rugby’s Olympic hopes than any other player, man or woman, and she literally just started playing competitively in 2014.