Some seniors may have gone, but other players are stepping up to fill in the vacancies on the Summit High School rugby team this fall. Head coach Karl Barth said his players were apprehensive during the meeting following the team's scrimmage recently, but he assured them that losing talented seniors was nothing new to this team. Should it go to the playoffs for the state title - which is among its goals - it will be the fifth year of shuffling the roster so all positions are accounted for and ensuring the team has the strength and depth to go well into the postseason. This year would be the fifth straight state title the team will take in as many years. "We graduated a very large, talented group. It was one of the two best graduating classes we've ever had," Barth said. At the same time, there remains talent on the team that was overshadowed in the past. Like Kellie Cochran, a senior who's been buried behind Haley "Peach" Anderson for a long time at the flyhalf position. It may look like a different style of play, but Barth plans on a strong team again this year. "We're going to practice like we're No. 2 - then, we'll play like we're No. 1," Cochran said. Today's leaders also want to build a cohesive group of players. If it comes to making decisions that win versus build a team, the group has decided it wants to build the team. "We want to see new players develop their skills," junior fullback Maddy Hunt-Snyder said. Team captain Katy Peoples added, "We want a family environment where we're all close. We don't want to jeopardize that" by focusing too much on having a winning record. It's been proven so far to sophomore Caroline Wilson, who's on the team for the first time this year and said she's learned fast. She said her progress has a lot to do with having so much leadership on the team, and by not being segregated into varsity and junior varsity players. Everyone practices together. Even Barth, who wants to win, says his coaching is about character, commitment and competence - in that order. "I'd rather have 30 girls with character than 30 girls with competence," Barth said. At the same time the team and its head coach acknowledge there are vacancies to fill, Barth started the season worried about the players who moved away or who got hurt. However, today, when the team plays Regis Jesuit for its season opener at Regis Stadium, Barth expects his squad to be in good health, with Peoples' shoulder given the go-ahead by doctor's orders and another knee injury being about ready to go. In 2011, 13 players were named all-state players. Six are back this year. And though last year's seniors could play their positions, today's players can play three or four spots, so Barth was shuffling the roster the day of the scrimmage. His team today is strong, but not flashy. "Last year, a lot of our back line was seniors and they were dazzling to watch," Barth said, though he added that the exception to the rule is Hunt-Snyder, who is on pace to being a high scorer who's fun to watch. Barth said the front line in the scrum is strong, and works hard. Senior Vollya Sergeeva, Chelsea Christiansen, Lilly Welden and Casy Chipparas were all names Barth threw out as doing the "dirty work," the physical, rough work in the scrum. "She'll be an exciting player to watch, as always," Barth said. To Peoples, it's about "being a phenomenal team, versus a group of phenomenal individuals" this year. Though the team wants to win, it's also important to them to improve, and competition isn't bad. Last year, at the national tournament in California, the team tied. According to Barth, the players were almost happier to tie than the blow-out wins. "They met their definitions of success and they were challenged," Barth said.
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