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Photo Credit: Hugh Cox

Following a fourth-place at Brazil Women’s Sevens, Julie McCoy’s USA Women’s Sevens squad is looking for a bounce-back tournament at the Las Vegas Invitational, with a few new faces in tow vying for their shot at Rio 2016. 

McCoy said her Olympics-bound team showed a lot of promise in Brazil, especially after a disappointing 1-4 record at Dubai Sevens in December.

“When we played with connection and unity, we played very well,” she said. “We’ve been working on that on and off the field. We actually saw some progress. We looked like our defense was organized, for the most part. Our attack had shown progress. It’s definitely not where we want it to be, but the fact that we went 2-1 the first day, and got through England in the second day, shows that we’re going in the right direction.”

However, McCoy also admitted that her team still has a lot to work on before they head to Las Vegas.

“We do have a lot to work on, to be honest,” she said. “We got beat in some of the technical areas, we were taking a lot more contact too early, and we were losing the ball in contact. That was basically because we weren’t working as hard off the ball as we should have. So, we will be prepared when Vegas rolls around to take another shot.”

Players like Jillian Potter, Megan Bonny and Kelly Griffin were some of the USA’s best in Brazil, according to McCoy. She said the three props provided leadership and consistency for her team, both on and off the field. Unfortunately for the USA, they’ll have to try and win in Vegas without their leadership, as the medical staff has sidelined Potter, Bonny and Griffin for the LVI. Despite that, McCoy said she is excited about some of the younger players, like Richelle Stephens, Nicole Heavirland and Rachel Griendling, who will be able to show their skills in the absence of some of the veterans.

“I’m excited about that combination,” she said. “They’re used to playing with each other. The scrum, prop-halves and hookers are used to playing with each other, and we’re putting them with some of the girls that went to Brazil. I’m looking forward to seeing how the midfield attack can materialize. I’m hoping that they will demonstrate what they can do in the middle of the field. I think they’ll connect there, which is something I think we lacked in Brazil.”

Even though the LVI is not an official tournament in World Sevens circuit, there will still be premier international talent on display. The USA has already seen most of the teams participating this season, but they have not yet battled France. They may get the chance to do just that in Vegas, as their pools cross over against one another in the knockout rounds.

“We haven’t played France this year, and personally, I think that’s going to be a really tough matchup,” McCoy said. “If we can get to them, I would love to see how we stack up against them. They’re fantastic in the contact areas, their defense is really good, they’re some of the best tacklers on the circuit. They’re unpredictable. You never know how they’re going to play you, because they’re very adaptable. That’s a side that I hope we get the opportunity to play against.”

As the players try to show why they belong on the roster that will eventually go to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, McCoy stressed the importance of staying calm and present at the LVI.

“We want to take each game one at a time,” she said. “In Sevens, you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to stay in the moment. Certainly, we always want to finish at the top. That’s definitely the goal. But, we don’t want to put that much pressure on ourselves. We mostly want to win each game that were in, and hope for the best. We’ll hope that stacks up to winning the tournament.”

The majority of the Women's Elite competition will be played on Field 15 at the Silver Bowl, which is the soccer complex adjacent to Sam Boyd Stadium. The first two rounds of pool play are Thursday, with the final pool match and knockouts beginning Friday. The semifinals and finals will be played inside the stadium Sunday.

Pool Schedule, Field 15
Thursday 8:40 a.m. MT USA Selects vs. Brazil Selects
Thursday 11:20 a.m. MT USA Selects vs. Stars 2
Friday 8:40 a.m. MT USA Selects vs. South Africa Selects