Dandy dozen: Summit girls rugby wins 12th straight state title
COLORADO SPRINGS — For Summit High girls rugby head coach Karl Barth, the final state-championship game of the season served as the perfect microcosm for the 2019 campaign.
Up against underdog Monarch, Summit was the heavy-favorite. But just minutes into the game, senior center Nicole Kimball — arguably Summit’s best player — was lost due to injury on a tough scoring play. In a season ravaged by injuries that included two unexpected losses to Arapahoe and Glenwood Springs, Kimball’s injury was the latest challenge.
For Barth, the word that comes to mind for this year’s Tiger team is exactly that: “challenged.” But for Kimball, the word that comes to mind is “overcoming.” This year’s Summit team had all of the excuses to not win their 12th consecutive state championship. There were injuries, unexpected losses and an element of finding team chemistry and roles. There was inexperience, lack of size and postponed games. But in the end, the Tigers rose up to the pressure of the legacy of Summit’s history and storied standard, defeating Monarch in the title game 33-5 for 12 in a row.
“It’s overcoming,” Kimball said after the championship win at Garry Berry Stadium in Colorado Springs. “…There was a high pressure on us. But I think we are known for overcoming those losses and working hard and putting our heads down for the rest of the season. And it showed today.”
“Losing Kimball in the first five minutes and having to play short-handed at the end, it was definitely a big challenge for them,” Barth added. “They really showed their character.”
The Tigers cemented yet another championship season on Friday by first avenging a recent loss to Glenwood Springs, defeating the side known as the “Valley Valkyries” 29-0. After an extended time away from the pitch due to weather concerns that delayed and relocated the state championship tournament from Boulder to Colorado Springs, Barth felt the Tigers had a good first game playing the aggressive, rush defense the team played in recent weeks. From the get-go, Summit senior leaders PK Vincze and Kimball set the tone as Summit succeeded in playing a more direct attack on a more narrow field.
The Tigers then took on Monarch in the second game, Summit prevailing 24-0 on the strength of scores from McKenna Orr, Vincze and Kimball, who faked-out Monarch’s defense on some fake pitches to the flank, jetting up the gut of the field for the score a couple of times.
“Early in the season we moved the ball out wide,” Kimball said, “so that’s how teams trained to defend us. And when there’s the movement, and their shoulders are turned, then they are visualizing (the pass out wide) and if their hips don’t turn then I’ll move the ball out. But if their hips do turn, your hips don’t lie. You can’t move without your hips.”
Kimball and the Tigers continued to read what the opposition was giving them in their third game of the day, a 40-7 win over Fort Collins. Though Fort Collins broke a run outside to take a 5-0 lead early in the game, Summit scored 33 unanswered points to advance to the final, as Vincze’s dogged play from the prop position helped the Tigers secure possession and set up scores.
“If you watch the whole team there’s no real panic,” Barth said. “We’ve got some real veteran players out there who, also some young players, and obviously PK took some of that (leadership) but I think it was really spread across the whole team.”
Aug. 29: Green, 40, vs. White, 37
Sept. 7: First at Summit 7’s, Tiger Stadium
Sept. 14: First at Terror 7’s, Colorado Springs
Sept. 21: First at Valkyrie 7’s, Glenwood Springs
Sept. 25: Win at Glenwood Springs
Sept. 28: Second at Lumberjackie 7’s
Oct. 8: Win vs. Glenwood Springs (Homecoming), Summit High School
Oct. 11-12: Second at Pink 7’s, Regional Athletic Complex, Salt Lake City
Oct. 19: First at Falcon Bluffs
Oct. 26: Colorado State 7’s Tournament, Boulder High School, 9 a.m. start
Nov. 2: Glendale 15’s, Glendale, TBD
Nov. 9: Palmer 15’s, Palmer, TBD
Nov. 16: Glendale 15’s, Glendale, TBD
In the championship game against Monarch, despite losing Kimball to injury, the Tigers continued to do what they’d done well all day. Players like Maleena Mero, sophomore Olyvia Snyder and senior Maggie Hoehn filled their roles off the bench. Junior Lily Hess tracked down much bigger plays and laid them out with perfect form tackles. And junior Bryton Ferrai seized each big moment, running over bigger defenders and sprinting to the center of the end one for scores.
After the Tigers sewed up their 12th title in a row with the 40-0 win over Monarch, Kimball put the final game — and season — into perspective. When Ferrari described her championship-clinching scores, the veteran Kimball stopped her in her tracks. There was one word she wanted to add to how Ferrari described those big plays: “Confident.”
“You were running confidently,” Kimball told Ferrari.
The junior Ferrari then deflected credit to a Summit senior, Logan Simson. To Barth, Simson and the rest of the Summit seniors led the way in being committed and buying into the brand of aggressive defense he wanted them to play. In the end, she was there, side-by-side on the flank grinding through Monarch tackles to help break Ferrari free.
That’s what this season was about: Championship-winning experienced seniors like Vincze, Kimball and Simson coming together with younger players like Ferrari, Hess and Snyder to become champions once again.
“We definitely had to work for what we had,” Simson said. “It wasn’t just putting on the Summit jersey and expecting to win, which we kind of thought in the beginning of the season. It was realizing we had to really try some new things and get our heads in the game. And we did that.”
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