Best is the standard: Summit rugby ready to take on top in-state, national competition to start season (podcast) | SummitDaily.com

Best is the standard: Summit rugby ready to take on top in-state, national competition to start season (podcast)

Another year, another season of elite expectations for the Summit High School girls rugby program.

But this year will be different. It's not just because the program has to replace a strong group of perennial state championship seniors, most notably high school All-American and Harvard freshman Cassidy Bargell.

The Tigers will open their regular season on Sept. 8 with their Summit 7's tournament. From 1–7 p.m. that Saturday afternoon, 13 teams will head to Tiger Stadium to prove their early season mettle against the perennial state champion Summit.

This year, though, the list of competing teams won't be limited to the best in Colorado. Two of the country's best high school teams from Utah will also be a part of the tournament: the vaunted two-time defending national champion United Girls Rugby Club of Utah County and Wasatch High School of Heber City.

If the Tigers perform up to their historic standard, they have a good chance at meeting up with these elite out-of-state teams during the tournament. That said, as Summit head coach Karl Barth will remind both you and his players, nothing is guaranteed.

"Everybody is super determined and the energy level is really high," said Summit junior PK Vincze.

Never afraid to schedule against the country's best, Barth has put his Summit Tigers in a position to play these elite teams from Utah in the past. Just last year, Summit traveled to Utah Youth Rugby’s annual Pink 7's tournament in Salt Lake City. In the opening round of the event's "Varsity Cup," Barth's No. 2 team, Summit White, lost to Wasatch by a score of 12-7 before ultimately finishing in eighth place.

On the other side of the bracket, Barth's top team, Summit Black, advanced to the championship game before falling to United by the score of 29-14.

In previous years, Summit's program bested these elite Utah teams as well, winning the inaugural Pink 7's event in 2015. But never before has Summit hosted these squads. Matching up against either or both squads is the kind of opportunity this year's Tigers players are willing to work hard to manifest.

LISTEN: Summit High girls rugby veterans Clara Copley, Jordan Elam and Liz Thoma preview the 2018 season

"It makes the team more determined than ever," said Summit junior Logan Simson.

Aside from their season-opening elite-level home tournament, the Tigers schedule once again won't let up throughout the fall campaign. That'll include another trip back out to Salt Lake City on the weekend of Oct. 12 and 13 for the fourth annual Pink 7's event.

Through Nov. 12, the Tigers will have 9 weekends of competitive action, including their annual Green vs. White scrimmage next Thursday at 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium. It'll all lead up to a return to the state tournament at Glendale's Infinity Park, the unofficial home of the U.S. national rugby team. If the Tigers conclude Nov. 12 as the state's best side, it'll be 11 consecutive state championships for the program.

But with the state tournament still more than two months away, the Tigers' full focus is on their Green-White scrimmage and the Sept. 8 season opener. At practice on Wednesday, Barth said it's been a while since his program has opened up with as strong of competition as the teams that will be in their Summit 7's event this year. At the end of last week, he first told his players of just who will be playing at Summit 7's. On that third day of practice, it certainly sent a shock wave through the team.

"When they first found out, there was a little of 'what?'" Barth said.

Leading the Tigers this year will be returning All-State players Clara Copley, CeCe Pennell and PK Vincze. The junior Vincze spent half the summer playing academy rugby over in New Zealand and Barth said he's encouraged with her improved skillset and more muscular frame. Senior Pennell, along with Vincze, spent part of the summer playing with the high school All-American squad. Several other Summit seniors and juniors played with a Rugby Colorado all-star team over the summer while a number of juniors played with the Rocky Mountain Rebels in Utah.

Down in New Mexico this past spring, a group of Summit players won the Rio Grande Celtic 7s tournament in Albuquerque. Recently graduated Bargell coached this squad mostly comprised of players stepping up from Summit White last year to Summit Black this year. The team captured the title by defeating the same team that defeated them in the opening round, the Arizona Bobcats, by the score of 25-20.

After all of this offseason action, Barth is hoping all of this summer success for the 47 total individual players that comprise his four-team program will transition seamlessly into competitive contests this fall.

"It's always good when you grow through a tournament," he said.

"The culture, they know it," Barth added of his players. "If you're not going to work hard, somebody's going to take your spot. And right now, it's great. Each day we are talking about someone new."

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2018 schedule

Aug. 30 Green vs. White 6 p.m. Tiger Stadium

Sept. 8 Summit 7’s 1 p.m. Tiger Stadium

Sept. 22 Palmer 7’s 9 a.m. U.S. Air Force Academy

Sept. 29 Chaparral 9 a.m. Chaparral

Oct. 6 Evergreen 9 a.m. Evergreen

Oct. 12-13 Pink 7’s TBD Salt Lake City, Utah

Oct. 27 Jesuit 7’s 9 a.m. Regis

Nov. 3 TBD

Nov. 12 State finals All day Infinity Park