The International Softball Federation’s World Softball Championships began on March 1 with a colorful and cordial opening ceremony. Young students belonging to softball clubs from the Auckland area escorted players from the 16 participating teams – Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, Great Britain, Argentina, Czech Republic, Philippines, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, Colombia, Samoa, and the Netherlands – onto the field for introductions. The children had an opportunity before the ceremony to meet with the teams and play some, eliciting an enthusiastic response from the U.S. team.
Representatives of Auckland, Tradestaff and the World Championship took turns speaking to the large crowd gathered at the stadium before Mayor Len Brown and Minister Steven Joyce officially began the tournament when each threw out one of the first pitches for the New Zealand team’s game against Mexico. Neither pitch broke any records, but they did go mostly in the direction of home plate, which is an overall success. Thus began an 8 day event that would crown a new champion for 2013.
Jim and consulate staff were also invited to attend the team’s barbeque, where he had the opportunity to get to know the players and coaches a bit better, including a few from his home state of New York. The team was very relaxed and determined not to mess with the mojo of their recent comeback, and so ping-pong and steak was the order of the day, rather than the trappings of the Auckland night-life. Players were happy to discuss their strategy for beating the Brits (which they did handily), when not busy playing a strange variation of poker in which bets are made as cards are revealed one at a time.
New Zealand’s tournament dominance was displayed early on in the game against Colombia as they rose to an early lead on their path to victory over Colombia, sealing the game off with a score of 4-0. The crowd thoroughly impressed the majority Kiwi audience, who were proud to say that their home-team looked like a true contender for the finals. New Zealand always does quite well in the championship, but this game laid a very solid foundation for what would turn out to be a fantastic run.
The US team got off to a slow start in the tournament, dropping the first three games against some tough competition, including the reigning champion Australia. The Americans rallied, though, and won the next four games to qualify for the tournament playoffs, including a victory over Great Britain. Unfortunately, Argentina was set on dream-crushing the hopeful U.S. side, eliminating the team 9-2 in the playoffs. The young U.S. players looked superb throughout the tournament, and this outing will certainly season some of the rookies and galvanize the squad, which has many up and coming stars that spell a bright future for the team. Matt Joseph Palazzo, for instance of the USA, for instance, tied Brad Rona of New Zealand and Jeff Ellsworth of Canada for most home runs of the tournament (with three each).
The final game saw the New Zealand Black Sox, coming off a nail-biting extra inning playoff win against Australia, winning over Venezuela 4-1 to take the 2013 title. Needless to say, the hometown crowd was ecstatic that its team came through, and gave the New Zealand players and coaches a standing ovation for their hard work and dedication.
The USA Eagles put in solid efforts against quality opposition over the past few weeks. If you have any messages that you would like passed on to the Eagles, post them in the comments area below.
Also, have your say in the Poll below:
I was extremely proud of the US. The team defensive performance was truly magnificent. The Eagles were well prepared to disrupt and compete at the tackle, where Todd Clever set the example as a captain and the entire squad responded. The team held up against a strong Irish onslaught led by O’Connell’s mighty performance at lock.
Offensively Mike Petri did a good job putting the ball in behind the Irish while Paul Emerick took on the legendary Brian O’Driscoll and created such good go forward ball. The superior Irish scrum put us under immense pressure but we we won some quality line-out possession and the team pattern was effective, using hit up and decoy runners.
O’Gara made a difference when he substituted into the game putting us under pressure with his classic territorial kicking. However the Eagles also put pressure on themselves with turnover ball.
Obviously on 9-11 there was a unique feel to the day and its historic relevance.
The Eagles will go into the Russia game knowing they need to produce the same intensity and improve their first phase possession, especially the scrum. It’s a momumental opportunity and I believe the US can win by 10-12 points.
A day before the Eagles opening match against Ireland, the U.S. Ambassador Huebner and Duane McWaine MD joined in on the street parade with the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band down the streets of New Plymouth.
Only 17 days to go!
Here is a sneak peek behind the scenes at preparations for the RWC 2011 Opening Ceremony.
By: Dallen Stanford
BOULDER, Colo. -– Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has selected his squad of 30 players that will represent the United States at the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in New Zealand next month.
The Eagles will compete in Pool C at the RWC, taking on Australia, Ireland, Italy and Russia in pool play. NBC Universal has released their broadcast schedule of the tournament, which begins with the opening ceremony on September 9 and concludes with the RWC final on October 23. Visit Universal Sports for details: www.universalsports.com
”I think there is a sense of relief that we are now in a position to name the final squad of 30 for the RWC. It has been a thorough process and I belief that we have the best 30 players available to us heading into the RWC.
As expected we have had to make some very tough decisions to get to the final squad, but that is just reflection on the talent available to us,” said O’Sullivan.
Todd Clever will captain the squad, with 16 forwards and 14 backs making up the team. Mike Petri – who led the Eagles against Japan on Sunday night in Tokyo – has been named the vice-captain.
Selected in the front row are Mike MacDonald, Mate Moeakiola, Eric Fry and Shawn Pittman. Three hookers have been selected in Chris Biller, Phil Thiel and Brian McClenahan.
The lock specialists are John van der Giessen, Hayden Smith and Scott LaValla. The loose-forwards include: Inaki Basauri, Pat Danahy, JJ Gagiano, Nic Johnson, Louis Stanfill, along with Clever.
In the backline, Tim Usasz is at scrumhalf with Petri. Partnering them at flyhalf are Nese Malifa and Roland Suniula. The centers will be Paul Emerick, Tai Enosa, Junior Sifa and Andrew Suniula.
Out wide the wings are Colin Hawley, Taku Ngwenya, James Paterson and Kevin Swiryn. Chris Wyles and Blaine Scully complete the squad as fullbacks.
”All eyes are now turned to RWC and our departure from the USA on September 1,” commented the Head Coach.
The squad will assemble in Santa Barbara on August 28 for their final preparations before flying to New Zealand on September 1.
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By: Dallen Stanford, USA Rugby
Glendale, Colo. – Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his best possible squad for the Canada encounter set to take place at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday.
“It’s important that we get a solid start to this August tour, with the Rugby World Cup (RWC) only weeks away. The squad has switched on right from the start, and realize that their RWC campaign is in their hands,” said O’Sullivan.
The 35-man Eagles squad arrived in Glendale on Sunday, July 31, hitting the ground running with two-a-day sessions on both Monday and Tuesday.
“Some players were not available during the Churchill Cup, so this is our first real opportunity to work those combinations that will allow us to achieve our goals,” explained the Head Coach.
The 22-man traveling squad will depart for Toronto on Thursday morning, looking to start their RWC campaign on a high note.
Canada are currently ranked 16th on the IRB World Rankings, one place ahead of the United States. Next week the Eagles will host Canada at Infinity Park on Saturday, August 13, after which the squad will travel to Tokyo to take on Japan on Sunday, August 21.
Two players that are not available for this upcoming match include veteran fullback Chris Wyles and Highlanders winger James Paterson. Wyles is nursing an ankle problem, and Paterson is continuing his rehabilitation.
“We need to give both Chris and James time to get back to full health,” added O’Sullivan.
The Eagles are led by the outstanding Todd Clever, with hard working Louis Stanfill (flank) and Nic Johnson (8th man) completing the loose forwards. In the tight five, the experienced props Mate Moeakiola and Shawn Pittman will look to dominate up front. Phillip Thiel – one of Life University’s standouts – starts at hooker.
45 Days to Go!
During a visit from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, President Obama gives a quick show of support for the USA Eagles team on their upcoming trip to New Zealand for the 2011 RWC.
”My understanding is the American team is heading out to New Zealand for the world rugby….Rugby World Cup. So good luck guys – although I hear the Kiwis are pretty good at rugby so I don’t think we are seeded number one. But I have confidence we will acquit ourselves well.” – Obama
Fast forward to 5:26
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MEN’S ALL-AMERICANS NAMED FOR SERIES OPENER AGAINST NEW ZEALAND UNIVERSITIES
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The 22 Men’s Collegiate All-Americans set to suit up against the New Zealand Universities Touring side on Saturday have been named. The game will kick off on Saturday July 9, 2011 at 3 p.m. at The Little Q, the home of Old Mission Bay Athletic Club (OMBAC).
The All-Americans have been in camp this week at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. to prepare for the Series.
In addition to rugby-specific skill work and training, the All-Americans visited a Navy training center in the area and took part in a workout used by the elite operations force, the Navy SEALS.
The All-Americans will play two more matches after Saturday’s fixture. The last two matches will take place on July 13 at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Steuber Rugby Stadium in Stanford on July 16.