England showed Australia could be beat on day 1 in Atlanta, but for the rest of the tournament no one else could find a way. The USA fell to the Aussies 22-7 in their cup quarterfinal match. The Aussies then rolled over Canada 26-14 in their semi-final battle.
In the Final New Zealand clawed their way back from a half time deficit of 19-7 to end five points shy of Australia at 24-19 final score. Australia has now won all three of this season’s HSBC Women’s Sevens tournaments.
The USA’s coach, Richie Walker, is looking to make 5 changes to the squad before Canada. He is also looking forward to more time with the team. There is only one week before USA take the pitch in Vancouver (Langford),Canada. The final tournament of the series will be six weeks later in Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Several teams are still trying player combinations. Two Eagles who were not on the roster in Atlanta, Victoria Folayan and Kelly Griffin, should add speed, defensive skills, and experience to the squad. New Zealand left stars Kayla McAlister and Huriana Manuel at home while three Kiwis made their debut in Atlanta. The New Zealand coach, Sean Horan, seems to be holding his cards very close to his vest; although, he is consistent in his message that, “It is all about three days in August.” There are few, if any, who argue this.
Right now the Olympic medal contenders seem to be Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada. England came storming back in Atlanta from the previous tournament in February in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they lost matches to the USA, France, and Fiji. In Atlanta they beat Australia in pool play, lost to New Zealand by five points in the semi-final match, and then dominated Canada (26-14) to take third place in the tournament.
The USA is struggling to find the right combination of players with enough speed to beat the top 4. The recent appointment of Richie Walker as coach has not helped. Rumors abound about what happened with the coaching switch from Ric Suggitt to Jules McCoy to Walker over the last seven months. The situation reminds me of a school I worked where the director called an emergency faculty meeting for the end of the school day. At the very brief meeting the director announced, “These rumors have to stop.” That was it. Of course, the first thing that happened when we walked out of the meeting was everybody asked, “What are the rumors?”, and more rumors erupted.
One consistent theme through all rumors is Walker should have taken over directly from Suggitt, and this is not because McCoy was a bad coach. Walker was Suggitt’s assistant and knew the players and systems. McCoy’s surprise appointment less than a year before the Olympics introduced unnecessary complications. Somebody in charge of those decisions (Magleby?) needs to stand up and say, “We made a mistake. Sorry Dr. McCoy. Hope you can forgive us. Now let’s work together for some gold in Rio.”