Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jessica Who? More on the Eagles Newest Impact Player

Several websites are covering Atlanta 7s in depth so I'll leave the commentary and updates to Scrum Queens, This is American Rugby, and Rugby Magazine (who has a great photo gallery of all the action here) It's hard to really write about the tournament without seeing the games live, though I'll be catching up on what I can via the video feeds and highlights.

Needless to say, Facebook and Twitter and some text messages with the Eagles women revealed a frustrating day. Our USA Women went 1-2 in pool play opening with a 31-0 loss to Canada (who went on to beat Australia and win the pool easily with a huge point differential. I believe it was an aggregate of 92-7 for our neighbors to the north).

The Eagles next test was against Dubai 7s champions Australia where they fell 17-0. Needing a big scoring effort against China, and some help in the form of an Ireland-Netherlands upset, the Eagles rebounded to take game three 41-0 and earned a Cup Quarterfinal spot as Ireland did beat the Netherlands 12-10. The Eagles next opponent..... Canada. Best of luck!

So here's the story of the tournament so far for the USA - crossover athlete Jessica Javelet is making a big name for herself in her first 7s call up. The newcomer has showcased her speed and tenacity and scored a couple tries to boot! Story via Rugby Magazine:

The Next Big Thing: Jessica Javelet
Sevens - USA Sevens Women

There's a lot to process after day one of the Atlanta 7s. The USA was not playing in the same tier as Canada, England, New Zealand, but the Eagles brought a mixed-experience squad, so expectations were tempered. That said, Eagle coach Ric Suggitt wasn't offering up any excuses, and the most exciting evolution in the USA's game was the program's newest player: Jessica Javelet.

Javelet scored two tries against China. (Paul Rudman photo)
         Javelet scored two tries against China. (Paul Rudman photo)
Former football and field hockey star looks comfortable in the open field. (Paul Rudman photo)
       Former football and field hockey star looks comfortable in the open field.     
                                           (Paul Rudman photo)
The 28-year-old has a very impressive resume. The valedictorian of University of Louisville in spring 2007, Javelet first turned heads as a First Team All American in field hockey. Among her many accolades, she was a finalist for the 2007 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, and was a part of the National Field Hockey Development Team from 2006-09. After college, she picked up football, and more awards. Last summer, Javelet was the co-MVP of the Women's Football Alliance national championship. It was the wide receiver's second consecutive Super Bowl victory after transferring from San Diego Surge in 2012.

It was that football link that put her in front of Suggitt. Liz Sowers, a basketball and football convert currently training in Chula Vista, told Suggitt that Javelet might be a good fit for sevens. Suggitt watched some impressive footage and there the process started.

It was somewhat surprising to see Javelet on the starting lineup against Canada, the USA's first game at the Atlanta 7s, but she proved her worth about 15 seconds into the game. Ashley Steacy gathered the kickoff, immediately spun out of that first attempted tackle, and tore into the USA's half. Javelet came streaking across the pitch, and although her speed was outstanding, it's what happened next that made the eyes light up. She didn't try to grab Steacy's jersey or wrap her hands on the ballcarrier's shoulders - she put on a good tackle that didn't allow the Canadian to immediately get back to her feet or offload. Javelet is fast, and she can tackle.

Javelet wasn't perfect; she showed her inexperience when isolated on the sideline - a frantic lob back inside - or some confusion around the ruck. But she scrambled hard, cleaned up breakaways, and was poised in offloading to teammates in support. She got to put some of her wide receiver moves to work in the third game against China, when she scored two tries. Her second was an absolute beauty: broke weak off a scrum and took the corner around the first defender; the second had her line. Streaking to the corner, Javelet hit Rebekah Siebach back inside just before the tackle, and the scrumhalf quickly offloaded to Amelia Villines in tight support. Just when it looked the play would slow down in a ruck, Javelet was already back on her feet, getting the final offload and angling beneath the posts. 

No, China is not the opponent that Canada and Australia are, but the USA rallied with a good performance to end the day, and an aggressive, sometimes risky, defense was at the heart of the turn-around.

"We had a really hard pre-game," Javelet said in the lead-up to China. "We said, 'We’re going to come out hard, dominant contact, and go out there and own our home.' ... We knew we had a few players who were going to shoot up and really pick their lines. Amelia took a great one, got the interception, and went through for the try. We put so much pressure on them that they didn’t know what to do with it."

China fumbled under the pressure, and that led to more offensive opportunities - a welcomed surplus considering the shutouts earlier in the day.

"In the first two, we were playing defense a lot of the time, and when we had the ball we weren’t really taking care of it," Javelet said. "So that was a point in the locker room – make sure we’re rucking and really taking care of it, because we had some turnovers earlier in the day that we would have loved to get back."

The USA piled on 41 points against China, and that show of force ended up sealing 8th place in the standings - a trip to the Cup quarterfinals.

"It felt so good, honestly," Javelet added. "To go two games and not score any tries is really kind of rough on morale – but this feels great. It’s a happy ending to a bittersweet day."

The day bittersweet for Javelet because Atlanta 7s is her debut, which is exciting, despite losing two games.

"My head was spinning a little bit," Javelet said. "[I have experience with] the big games where you’re on the big stage, and you have to put aside all the distractions – the fans, refs, other team, media – that did help coming into this. This is so cool, and there’s so much happening, but if you focus on it, then you lose focus of the game."

No one has made such a thrilling impact on the USA Women 7s team in some time. Javelet wasn't only put on the field for some experience; she started every game. Javelet has the potential to be great, and she's in the perfect environment to get there.

"I love them all," Javelet said of her role models at the OTC. "Every single one of them, I’m not lying, has at some point during training taken me under their wing to teach me little things. Jill Potter was working on my defense; Griff and Deven working on passing; Vix talking about how to work the wing – they all have been so instrumental in helping me. There hasn’t been one person who hasn’t had a positive impact in my learning of the game. I’m really grateful to have them as my teammates."

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