Summit High girls rugby goes for 13th-straight state title in new season
The Summit High School girls rugby team will get the chance to win the program’s 13th-straight state championship, albeit in a new league and 18 months after the team last won a state title.
Tigers junior Elizabeth Darst said Thursday that the team will start its season Friday ahead of the game in certain aspects while behind in others. When it comes to tackling and physicality, that early season progression has been thrown off with physical contact, spacing and group-size rules affecting the team through the fall. But in terms of ball handing and kicking, Summit has improved because that’s one of the main things they’ve been able to work on.
Beyond the physical, skill and style elements of rugby, Darst said it just feels good to be around her Tigers teammates.
“It means a lot. It’s kind of like a return to normalcy,” the junior said. “To be able to be a part of a team after being isolated, away from school, it’s a cool thing. You realize how close the team feels after some time apart.”
Rather than playing in the Colorado Rugby league this year, Summit will play in the new Colorado Interscholastic Rugby Association. Coach Karl Barth said the league will feature old Tigers rivals like Regis, Monarch and Arapahoe. The esteemed Tigers rugby coach said the goal of the league is to keep moving girls rugby forward toward inclusion in the Colorado High School Activities Association, the statewide governing body for most high school sports. Beyond that motive, the league also will give Summit High boys the opportunity to play on a rugby team later this spring after several years when the school didn’t field a side.
Once the Tigers girls reach the pitch in their first seven-on-seven action, Summit likely will play in more one-on-one games rather than at traditional multi-team meets and tournaments. Barth said that might change through the season if COVID-19 regulations loosen, but for now, the girls are just excited to play, even if that means fewer games. The Tigers also will have to wait a week to play against their first opponent of the season, as their Friday trip to Central in Grand Junction was canceled due to COVID-19 quarantines within the Central program.
On the heels of that news, Barth said at Thursday’s practice that the team is truly taking things one day at a time. And for now, the program’s main goal is to get the Tigers’ 11 seniors to play in a competitive game — something they haven’t been able to do in a year and a half.
“To play at least one game, that’s what really it’s going to come down to,” Barth said. “All of the seniors to get a last chance.”
Barth described this year’s team as one that can play with physicality and a fast pace. The coach said one of the elements of the game the players benefited from this fall was more efficient attacking of gaps due to using props such as pool noodles to simulate contact.
“The players did well to identify space,” Barth said. “We’ll see how that translates to the field when we get to play together.”
The Tigers seniors are led by the flyhalf-scrumhalf combination of Bryton Ferrari and Brielle Quigley. Barth described Ferrari as a “hot knife through butter” with her ability to slash up defenses, while Quigley is an integral player on the pitch for Summit.
Ferrari, who is hoping to join Tigers rugby alumni at Harvard next fall, said Thursday that this year’s team will rely on speed and that she’s ready to spearhead that with her “captainship.”
“The team goals are to persevere together when we go through hard times,” Ferrari said. “Everyone has challenges, and we’ll need to work together.”
Other top Tigers seniors include dynamic finisher McKenna Orr, the hardworking, versatile Maleena Mero and a player Barth described as “the most outrageous defender you’ve ever met,” Lily Hess. Hess, the team’s surest tackler, won’t be able to play until later in the season due to a wrist injury suffered Wednesday.
Barth said he’s also excited to see what Millie Carleton brings to the pitch, as she was a rising force for the program thanks to her off-field work before COVID-19. And then junior ski star Olyvia Snyder will look to continue her torrid offensive form from her debut season on the rugby pitch in fall 2019.
Despite not being able to play with her teammates until later in the season, Hess — who is off to play at Coastal Carolina next year — said she’ll be with the Tigers at each and every practice and game because rugby is something that “keeps everyone connected.”
“I’m a part of this team and feel I will always be a part of this team,” Hess said. “Even if someone is injured, I feel they can help out and be a part of the team from the sideline, making a difference.”
• March 19: intrasquad scrimmage at Summit, 9 a.m.
• March 27: at Regis, 10 a.m.
• April 3: at Monarch, TBD
• April 10: vs. Central/East, 10 a.m., or at Arapahoe, TBD
• April 17: at Central, 3 p.m., or at Palmer, TBD
• May 1: state championship at Summit or Regis, TBD
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