Summit girls rugby’s top two teams have high hopes entering Saturday’s state tournament

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Given recent tournament results, the Summit High School girls rugby team is pondering a new question: Is there a chance Summit’s second side — sometimes referred to as the “Gold” team — can match up with the top “Black” side in the state championship tournament?

Heading into Saturday’s state tournament at Garry Berry Stadium in Colorado Springs, the 2018 campaign has been more of the same for the Tigers’ top team: first-place finishes in all tournaments except one, their sole loss coming on the road in Utah versus the same elite United club the Tigers defeated at home to start the year.

With no losses to Colorado teams through the year, Summit’s top team is the heavy favorite to push their decade of state championship dominance to 11 consecutive titles. In their way, familiar names of strong sides such as Arapahoe (formerly Swarm), Monarch and Palmer figure to be in their path.

But what if Summit vs. Summit happens? Following Summit Gold’s 22-7 win versus Arapahoe in their last tournament in Boulder, it has become a possibility.

It’s an outcome Summit senior hooker Clara Copley has considered, as she regards the Gold team as some of the Black team’s toughest competition.

“Some of the hardest games we play,” Copley said.

“For them to beat Swarm (Arapahoe),” said Summit senior prop Heidi Anderson, “was a proud moment for the whole team. If we play them in states, the intensity and energy would be really high, and it’d be a really good game.”

That would be the perfect storm for Summit head coach Karl Barth. But as a New England Patriots fan himself, Barth known all too well how it feels for a team that’s gone, essentially, undefeated all season long to drop the final contest.

Alluding to the undefeated 2008 Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the underdog Giants, Barth doesn’t want his players to experience that feeling, and he knows all too well sides like a more healthy Swarm, Palmer and Monarch could knock Summit Black off. Heck, some of the toughest games Summit’s top team has played this season have come against Denver East, which Summit Black will see in a pre-scheduled opening round game.

If Summit’s top side is to win yet another state title, Barth, Copley and Anderson all mutually agree that it will be thanks to having played together in another tournament, using ball movement, speed, patience and one singular team focus. It’s a collective mindset of waiting for the right opportunity to pounce. The bottom line is Summit’s top side is so well-schooled, fundamentally sound and experienced that if they don’t strive away from playing together, it’ll be very hard for any other team to beat them.

To boot, Summit will benefit from the return of talented junior Logan Simson, who Barth commended for maintaining engagement and enthusiasm among her rugby sisters through a season in which she was forced out from the beginning due to an injury.

“She was basically helping coach the team, running water for them,” Barth said. “She’s been incredible for their mental kind of game.”

Barth believes teamwork will decide the fate of his second squad on Saturday. They’ve grown together through the year; singular players no longer try to do too much solo. Summit Gold had to pair sound, consistent team defense with opportunistic scoring to defeat a team the quality of Arapahoe. Set to showdown with them again in an opening round matchup, Barth knows it will take much more for Gold to repeat.

That said, if Gold is able to repeat, and if they somehow slay a couple more giants to matchup with Summit Black in the state semifinals or title game, it’s something Summit senior flyhalf CeCe Pennell and other Tigers would cherish.

“To all be on the field in the final,” Pennell said, “we’ve wanted to do that since we’ve all started playing 7s — always wanted to get first and second. It would be really cool for us to do that in our senior year.”

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