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Canadian women's rugby 7s team ready to defend Pan Am gold

With a blend of experience and youth, Canada begins defence of its Pan Am Games title in Lima on Friday against Mexico. Team captain and 2015 champion Kayla Moleschi says there are plenty of players ready for their close-up.

Tournament going to show depth in program, says 2015 Pan Am champion Kayla Moleschi

Kayla Moleschi, pictured here during Canada's gold-medal win over the United States at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, is captain of this year' squad that is a mix of experience and youth. (Chris Young/Canadian Press/File)

Canada set the bar high in winning the women's rugby sevens gold on home soil at the 2015 Pan American Games.

The Canadian women took no prisoners en route to the podium, outscoring its opposition 285-19 and running in 47 tries while yielding just three. After going down 7-0 in the final, Canada hammered the U.S. 55-7 for its sixth straight win.

"Definitely one to remember," recalled Kayla Moleschi, who was part of that 2015 team and is captaining the 2019 squad.

Canada begins defence of its Pan Am title in Lima on Friday against Mexico before facing host Peru and Brazil on Saturday with playoff games Sunday.

Rugby Canada has opted for a blend of experience and youth, allowing some veterans time off to rest and recuperate after the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series.

We're a world-class team and we're here to bring the heat.— Canada captain Kayla Moleschi

Moleschi leads a young team missing Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Britt Benn, Karen Paquin, Charity Williams, Julia Greenshields and Keyara Wardley, all of whom were part of the team that finished third at the World Series stop in Biarritz, France, last month.

Olympic berth locked up

Only Moleschi, Caroline Crossley, Emma Chown, Kaili Lukan and Breanne Nicholas return from the France squad.

Moleschi says there are plenty of players ready for their close-up.

"This tournament is really going to show the depth in our program," she said. "We've got a lot of girls that are wanting to step up and put their hands up in the hopes of [making] the Olympics.

The Canadian women, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, secured automatic qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by finishing in the top four in the World Series this season.

Assistant coach Morgan Williams, a former Canadian international, will run the team in Peru with head coach John Tait back home.

As the only teams at the Games who are core members of the World Series, the Canadian and the U.S. women are expected to face off for gold once again when the dust settles.

U.S. boasts strong squad

Canada placed third, just behind the U.S. and leader New Zealand in the World Series standings.

The Americans won in Biarritz and finished on the podium in five of the six events. Canada triumphed in Kitakyushu, Japan, and had four podium finishes.

The U.S. is fielding a strong team in Peru, with 10 members of its World Series squad.

Moleschi, who made her World Series debut in Dubai in 2011, also helped Canada to a silver medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and the bronze in Rio.

The 28-year-old from Williams Lake, B.C., had a break after the World Series season, enjoying some time at home.

Landscaping business

Away from rugby, Moleschi is an entrepreneur. She has taken over a business started by older brother Curtis and now runs KM Yardworks, doing yard maintenance and landscaping.

"I love working outside, I love working with my hands," she said. "You see an instant result when you get to do that stuff and that's kind of what I really enjoy.

"It resembles a bit of my lifestyle in rugby. I work hard and I'm able to put forward maximum effort and I see results."

Rugby sevens was introduced to the Pan Ams in 2011 for the men and 2015 for the women.

The Canadian men won gold in both 2011 and 2015, defeating Argentina in close finals (26-24 and 22-19). The Americans won the bronze both times, downing Uruguay.

Canada's men also open play Friday in a pool with Uruguay, Jamaica and Argentina.

Canadian women's roster

  • Delaney Aikens, Briercrest, Sask., UBC
  • Pam Buisa, Gatineau, Que., Ottawa Irish
  • Emma Chown, Barrie, Ont., Aurora Barbarians
  • Caroline Crossley, Victoria, Castaway Wanderers
  • Olivia De Couvreur, Ottawa, Ottawa Irish
  • Asia Hogan-Rochester, Toronto, York Lions
  • Sara Kaljuvee, Ajax, Ont., Toronto Scottish
  • Tausani Levale, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC
  • Kaili Lukan, Barrie, Ont., unattached
  • Kayla Moleschi (apt.), Williams Lake, B.C., Williams Lake Rustlers
  • Breanne Nicholas, Blenheim, Ont., London St. Georges RFC
  • Temitiope Ogunjimi, Calgary, Calgary Hornets

Head Coach: Morgan Williams

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