By Karen Price | Oct. 21, 2018, 8:20 p.m. (ET)

Members of the U.S. women's rugby sevens team talk in a huddle at the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series on Oct. 21, 2018 in Glendale, Colo.

 

It was a nearly ideal opener to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series season for the United States on Sunday in Glendale, Colorado.

Nearly.

The U.S. advanced to the cup final, but New Zealand dominated to win the title 33-7 as all the teams kicked off a very important season. 

The top four men’s and top four women’s teams in the Sevens Series 2019 will qualify to compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Additional teams will qualify through other means, but securing those spots early on will certainly provide additional motivation to competing countries this season. 

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The U.S. finished fifth in the standings last season.

In Sunday’s final, co-captain Nicole Heavirland broke through early in the game to help the U.S. to a 7-0 lead but once New Zealand started to put the pressure on it didn’t let up and quickly tied the score then raced ahead. It was the second meeting between the two teams this weekend, with New Zealand registering a 35-12 win Saturday. 

Nonetheless, winning the silver medal was a strong start to the new season for the U.S. The Americans lost to England 12-10 to open the tournament Saturday, then defeated China 24-21, before falling to New Zealand. On Sunday, the U.S. beat 2018 season champion Australia 26-5 in the quarterfinals before taking on France in the semifinals and coming away with a 21-19 win on a dramatic, last-second try.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.