Heading into last weekend’s Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy in Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia, Guam Women's Rugby Sevens Team had lofty goals.
Winning the tournament in the nine-team format would mean promotion to the 2020 Asia Rugby Sevens Series. Anything short of the mark, they would remain as one of the bottom nine teams.
Including Guam, the lower-tier teams in the tournament were Bangladesh, Chinese Taipei, India, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Philippines and Qatar.
Placed in Pool A with Chinese Taipei and India, Guam’s first match garnered a victory. Against Chinese Taipei, Guam won, 31-7.
Early in the first half, Guam’s Rosae Calvo broke through the defenders and ran deep into Chinese Taipei’s territory. Vana Terlaje, a former Southern High School standout rugby player, capped the drive with a try.
Guam’s Kimberley Taguacta added the team's second try in the first half.
After surrendering a last-second first-half try, the second half was all Guam.
With an uncomfortable 3-point lead heading into the intermission, Olivia Elliot, Guam team captain, entered the pitch fired up.
Elliot, after fighting through the defense, looked for a passing option. With nothing but daylight to the goal, keeping the ball, she ran for a try.
A few moments later, Elliot scored again.
Guam’s second game, against India, didn’t go nearly as well. After scoring on a 5-meter scrum, a powerful move from Kayla Taguacta, Guam surrendered 29 unanswered points, losing 29-14.
“We got off to the ideal start against India,” said Pete Baggetta, Guam’s assistant coach. “Then, some of our inexperience of our newer players started to show as we did not gather three kickoffs. Kickoffs are probably the most critical set piece in sevens.”
“I believe a true reflection of the way a team plays is not against the easiest teams, but against the hardest,” Elliot said.
Guam, unable to counter India’s Sweety Kumari’s speed, allowed the sprinter to score a hat trick.
“Forget Usain Bolt, we have SWEETY KUMARI,” tweeted a fan.
“I think today was tough,” Elliot said. “Overall, we are really struggling with numbers. We’ve lost a lot of our key players recently due to unforeseen circumstances and personal decisions.”
With five of Guam’s top female rugby players committed to NCAA Division I programs in the states, the makeshift squad struggled.
It was “a bit disappointing that some of our top younger players chose not to represent their island, which I can’t understand,” Baggetta said. “However, because these girls are playing in the states, they have preseason camp this week, as well as being on scholarships (and) cannot play for us unless released by the NCAA.”
Elliot sees no acceptable excuses.
“I would like to see the younger girls really think about what a true representation of their island is, especially when they go off to college,” she said. “There are a lot of girls on Guam with the talent to play on the national level and that could help us sweep these tournaments.”
“One day, we will be there,” she said. "And one day, Guam women’s rugby will fulfill the dreams most of us have for it.”
Commending the team for its work, Baggetta said, “The growth of rugby in Guam … is disappointing.”