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The trumpeting that the USA Women reached the finals of the 1999 Hong Kong 7s was less a plug for the team’s success than the narrative of the team’s dedication to represent the USA, at great personal expense of both time and money. The 1999 Hong Kong tournament – the 24th edition – witnessed the debut of the Women’s final in the 20,000 seat Hong Kong Stadium for the first time. The HSBC Women’s circuit today, and the Rio Olympics of 2016, can be traced back to this seminal tournament.
The USA advanced with a first match rout of China 62-0, and then a semi-final win over England 24-5. In a reduced field, there were only two games for the Eagles before meeting powerful New Zealand in the final match. The Black Ferns triumphed easily 29-0, but both teams earned kudos and plaudits from the crowd. The USA trailed only 5-0 at the break in an expanded twenty-minute match.
The team met in early winter at Moravian College’s indoor gymnasium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which gave coaches a chance to review strategy for Hong Kong. The Bethlehem camp and the Hong Kong Trip were partially funded by a raffle that generated $7,000. The prize winner was noted rugby merchandiser Matt Godek, who generously kicked back the $2,000 prize to the USA team.
Tracy Moens served as Manager. The team was coached by Al Caravelli and Emil Signes. It was Signes who crystalized the mission coming out of the event when he wrote, “Our women players must become missionaries to get more of our elite 15s players involved in sevens…”
This Saturday in Dubai, eighteen-years after this memorable Hong Kong event, the USA Women 7s will participate in the first round of the HSBC Women’s 2017/2018 tournament, fulfilling that mission statement from 1999.