USA Falcons Women’s & Men’s Squad For Vegas

March 2, 2016

USA Falcons Women’s & Men’s Squad For Vegas


Doug Coil

At the Las Vegas Invitational on March 3-6th the United States Falcons Men’s and Women’s rugby will play in the Elite brackets. Between both sides there are fourteen capped players.

USA Rugby Women’s Falcons

The Women’s Falcons are coached by USA Women’s Sevens Head Coach, Jules McCoy. Hunter Griendling, Ashley Perry, and Naya Tapper just were debutants at the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Brazil. Irene Gardner  and Hunter Griendling will co-captain the side.

There are five stops for the series this year, at the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, the United States, Canada, and France, and that limits the number of matches that may be played prior to Rio. The Women’s Eagles Sevens have tried to increase their time  by having Brazil, Canada and Japan visit the Olympic Training Center for scrimmages. By participating at the LVI, this provides additional time to gel.

Jules McCoy indicated “we are using some non-circuit tournaments to vet new players into the system, as well as give them a chance to play into a circuit team before the Olympic selections.”

The team averages 25 years and includes AIG Women’s Collegiate All-Americans Meya Bizer and Richelle Stephens.fIt also includes former All-Americans Nicole Heavirland and Kristen Thomas.

Jessica Javelet, Ryan Carlyle just returned from the Series in São Paulo. Also add to Kate Zachary and Carmen Farmer to the mix and it is a very talented team.

Jules McCoy commented on her selection considerations in saying “we put a younger midfield with some speed on the outside to push on defense, as well as to showcase our younger talent pool for 2016 and 2020.”

The Eagles began the Series slowing by finishing in  eleventh place in Dubai. That was considered to be an aberration and in Brazil  they finished fourth.

Penn Mutual sponsored the Falcons’ entry into the invitational tournament this weekend, where they will play select sides from Brazil and South Africa, as well as a domestic team from Stars Rugby, in pool play. The Women’s Elite 7s division’s Cup Semifinals and Final will be played at Sam Boyd Stadium Sunday, March 6.

“Leanne Acton and Eileen McDonald from Penn Mutual have a key interest in the game played by women,” McCoy said. “They made sure we attended the LVI with their generosity and, in turn, we will don their brand with pride.

“Kris Thomas is sponsored by Penn Mutual and is a member of our team’s leadership council; she will be playing on this team as their representative.”

USA Rugby Men’s Falcons

The Falcon Men will be coached by Paul Holmes and Nese Maifa from Tiger Rugby. Nese coached the men last year to a third place finish. Current Eagles Sevens players Madison Hughes, Garrett Bender and Will Holder have previously played for the Falcons.

There are other players who will be playing for the Falcons at LVI who have also played for the Eagles Sevens. These players include, Matei Leuta, Pat Blair, Ben Leatigaga, Thretton Palamo, and Shalom Suniula, so the side is experienced.

Paul Holmes talked about the Falcons in saying “the guys have had a great High Performance Camp and the attitude with everyone is that we have a job to do and we need to perform to the levels that [Eagles Head Coach] Mike [Friday] and Chris [Brown] expect. Also, guys know and realize that this is a vital opportunity for anyone on this squad to step up and take their opportunities.”
Since the tournament begins on Thursday, Mike Friday and Chris Brown will be able to view the matches and assess performance. Mike indicated at the recent Eagles Sevens Camp that selections for Vancouver upon the conclusion of play in Vegas.
Several of the Falcons traveled to Chile and Argentina in January as Falcons. This included
Aaron “Spike” Davis, Seth Halliman, Tua Laei, Peter Malcolm, Jope Motokana, ConRoy Smith, and Joey Sok. In South Americas they played in two tournaments with national teams from Argentina, Canada, and South Africa, as well as a few South American nations.
It was a learning experience for the players in South America and the competition at LVI will be intense. Mike Friday said “first and foremost I’m looking for these boys to operate as a team. They know what expected of them in terms of the technical part: I’m looking for consistency. It’s a step up, a progression from where they were in South America, and they know we’re going to be there watching. They know they’re expected to deliver in what will be a tough tournament.”

The Falcons will face a France Development team, Florida RDA, and Tumatauenga from New Zealand in pool play in the Americas Cup 7s division, formerly called the Elite Men’s Division. Play begins on Thursday and the Falcons hopes that it ends in a Cup Final appearance at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday.

USA Falcons sponsored by Penn Mutual | Las Vegas Invitational
1. Carmen Farmer 2. Meya Bizer 3. Kate Zackary 4. Ashley Perry 5. Nicole Heavirland
6. Irene Gardner 7. Ryan Carlyle 8. Hunter Griendling 9. Richelle Stephens 10. Jessica Javelet 11. Kristen Thomas 12. Naya Tapper

USA Falcons sponsored by Penn Mutual: Las Vegas Invitational
v. Brazil Women’s 7s – Thursday, March 3 @ 8:40 a.m. PT
v. Stars Rugby 2 – Thursday, March 3 @ 11:20 a.m. PT
v. South Africa Select – Friday, March 4 @ 8:40 a.m. PT

USA Falcons: Las Vegas Invitational
Pat Blair, Aaron Davis, Seth Halliman, Tua Laei, Ben Leatigaga, Matai Leuta, Peter Malcolm,  Jope Motokana, Thretton Palamo, ConRoy Smith, Joey Sok, Shalom Suniula

USA Falcons | Las Vegas Invitational
v. Florida RDA – Thursday, March 3 @ 8 a.m. PT
v. France Development – Thursday, March 3 @ 10:40 a.m. PT
v. Tumatauenga – Thursday, March 3 @ 1:20 p.m. PT


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