Burlington cheers Maher, USA Women’s Rugby on to win

Ilona Maher and the Eagles defeat China 28-14 in Olympic opener
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 12:22 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s Ilona Maher and the US Women’s Rugby 7′s side played their first game of the Olympics Wednesday evening, earning a 28-14 win over against China. It was a tense affair, but a run of three American second half tries in quick succession allowed the Eagles to pull away.

Back home in Burlington, family and friends of Maher’s gathered at the Elks Lodge in the North End to cheer on their home town girl and her team to victory. For Ilona’s mother Mieneke Maher, it was an incredibly special moment, and the culmination of a long journey from multi-sport BHS Seahorse star to the Olympics.

“Well which emotion is not going?” Mieneke Maher said before the match. “It’s nerves, it’s nausea, it’s excitement, it’s worry, it’s happiness. Pride. Most of all pride. It was a whirlwind from the very beginning because she decided not to play softball and start playing at South Burlington. And turns out that she had a gift for rugby and it kind of escalated rather quickly from there. She played at Norwich with Austin Hall, and then transferred to Quinnipiac with Rebecca Carlson. I think her senior year second semester, she was like, ‘You know what? I’m not done with this. I’m ready to do more, I’m ready to build on this.’ And put her mind to it, put her body to it, and she did it.”

Maher and Team USA won’t have much time to rest on their laurels: they will be back in action at 5 am Eastern time to take on host Japan, and they’ll face another medal favorite in Australia Thursday night

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