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The United States women have the chance to maybe make history this weekend at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto. It’s tough to tell if the Eagles have won back-to-back tournaments before, and if so when, as the all-time women’s 7s records aren’t tidy and easy to find, but if they take gold on the weekend they’ll have two-consecutive tournament wins for the first time since at least 2011, if not ever.
Prior to the Olympic qualifier last month in Cary, N.C., in which the Eagles slaughtered all comers and pasted 88 points on Mexico in the final, their last tournament win was 2012 in Guangzhou, China. That tournament served as a precursor to the inaugural women’s World Series which kicked off a month later.
They finished second to Canada in the Amsterdam in the spring of 2012. Had they beaten their northern rivals in that game, the Guangzhou win would have made it two in a row. Canada again stands in the Eagles’ way in Toronto.
With only six women’s teams competing, everyone will play each other in a round-robin Saturday and Sunday, with the top two teams facing off again for gold on day two. So the Eagles will play Canada at least once, and hopefully a second time in the final.
“That’s the hope. You never want to play too far ahead, especially when it comes to big events like this because anything can happen, but we definitely look forward to playing Canada,” said captain Kelly Griffin. “They’re a really great team. We feel that we match up well against them, and this time around we’re hoping we can play our game and come out on top.”
Griffin’s charges went 1-4 against Canada last season. Outside of a 36-0 loss in Dubai, all of the matches were decided by a try or less.
“We’ve only beat them once, so when we beat them it was pretty awesome, and when we lose it usually hurts pretty bad,” said Lauren Doyle of the Canadians. “I mean, our coach is from Canada, so there’s always that added pressure. It’s a great rivalry.”
Mexico is likely going to be cannon fodder for the USA and its contemporaries this weekend, but the women’s field includes four Olympic qualifiers in the Eagles, Canada, Brazil and Colombia. Mix in the formality of the opening ceremony, the bells and whistles of the athlete’s village and all of the other Pan-Am trimmings, and this weekend is a good appetizer for next summer’s Rio Games.
“There’s a lot of excitement with all the other sports and the extra kind of hype and pomp and circumstance that goes with it,” said Griffin. “We want to take in the atmosphere and enjoy it, but take the positive energy from it and let that fuel us and not form any jitters or anxiety. When we get on the on the field it’s just another rugby game and we have to just focus in on the fundamentals and playing our game.”
“I think going into this tournament we are very calm and relaxed and it’s all about having fun,” added Doyle. “You can’t forget to have fun when you’re playing sports, especially when it’s your job. We are very relaxed, and practices have been chill but to the point, so I feel really good about it.”