TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

July 18, 2016 — A 19th field hockey player

A few days ago, the U.S. women’s Olympic field hockey team was named, with 16 players and two alternates.

This morning, another field hockey player made the delegation to go to Rio. And if you’ve been paying attention, you might have seen this coming.

Jessica Javelet, who was a standout player at the University of Louisville and of late the head field hockey coach at San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.), is one of 12 players selected to be on the U.S. women’s Olympic rugby sevens team.

Rugby sevens is a compact version of the tough-tackling game popular in many Commonwealth countries, but has not been part of the Olympic program since 1924. Whereas rugby union has 15 players, and rugby league has 13, the Olympic version has just seven a side on a regulation pitch.

This means there is lots of open space and plenty of scoring. Because of this, games are short; only seven-minute halves. It is possible to run an eight-team tournament in just three days. And because of the short games, this puts a premium on speed and agility rather than strength.

This has made rugby sevens a much more democratic version of the sport. Full-field rugby’s competitive field has the likes of England, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in the top echelon, with everyone else fighting for the leftovers. In sevens, Fiji (yep, Fiji) is the current leader in the men’s world rankings, and the American men are sixth. A number of non-traditional nations such as Kenya, Scotland, and Japan are in the Top 15.

The United States women are hoping for this kind of democratization for their participation in women’s sevens. It is a speedy, strong bunch who will be hoping that their offense will carry them through. And chief among the attacking players will be Javelet. Just five weeks after first picking up a ball, she was playing for the U.S. team and leading them in tries in her debut in Atlanta.

Javalet has also excelled in women’s tackle football, winning a pair of championships with the Women’s Football Alliance, so she knows a thing or two about taking (or evading) tackles.

Given the American women’s Olympians penchant for winning gold in team sports such as basketball, soccer, and softball, I have a feeling the rugby team could be the surprise package.

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