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Confidence Building Among Women Eagles

Friday Aug 21, 2009 in Women National Teams

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Oakville, Ont. - Sometimes a win is a win, a notch in the record book. Other times, it’s the much needed confidence boost that breaks a three-year losing streak. And still other times, it has even farther reaching implications.

When the USA Women rallied from a closing-minutes Canada try that tied their Nations Cup match Wednesday, the Eagles found some validation in the work they’ve invested since the last World Cup.

“It was exhilarating,” said captain Ashley English after their training session Thursday. “It was the most exciting game I’ve played with the US. The sense of team that emerged from that win – I was so proud of us when we marched the ball right back up the field after Canada scored.”

“It was something we haven’t felt in a long time,” continued Kristin “Ham” Zdanczewicz. “We weren’t going to get beat and kept pounding away.”

The two players, who were on the 2006 Rugby World Cup squad, noted that the team broke a six-test losing streak with the South Africa win, and the Canada victory proved that the Eagles continue to solidify.

It was evident at training Thursday that the women were still feeding off the come-from-behind upset. The team warmed up their legs by playing football, soccer and touch. It was interesting to watch players’ athletic influences surface – Steph Bruce dribbling a soccer ball, Phaidra Knight joking with a teammate, “Girl, don’t you watch football!?”

There was some light contact with tackle bags, but nothing stressful. Flores was concerned about the heat and recovery. As the women broke from training, they migrated to the ice baths outside their accommodation, and eventually broke into boisterous song – “More Than Words” the tune of choice.

“It’s a huge monkey off their backs,” said forwards coach and high performance director Alex Williams. “I’m not religious, but when that Canada conversion kick bounced off the posts, I thought, ‘Thank God!’”

Williams went on to say, “From a program point of view, the two wins have been great for potential sponsorship. To say we beat the number five team in the world is huge.”

Now if the USA could make it three in a row against France on Saturday, it’ll prove that the Eagles are no fluke. “They’re physical at the breakdown, kick a lot, and are evasive runners,” English’s said. “They run with a French flair, in that they’re unpredictable, so we’re preparing for that.”

Saturday’s matches occur at Fletcher’s Field in Markham, Ontario, migrating from picturesque Appleby College in Oakville. English is excited to lead her team there, in which she played about 10 years ago. “Ew, that means you’re old,” Zdanczewicz added with a deprecating laugh as the pair migrated toward their icing teammates.

- Jackie Finlan

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