Summit High School girls rugby excited to refocus after first in-state loss in 12 years |

Summit High School girls rugby excited to refocus after first in-state loss in 12 years

Members of the Summit High School girls rugby program huddle before a tournament Sept. 7, 2019, at Summit High School's Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

BRECKENRIDGE — The Summit High School girls varsity rugby team is in unfamiliar territory at practice this week: bouncing back from a loss against an in-state opponent.

For the first time since the 2007 state championship game, the Tigers’ top side lost to a Colorado team this past weekend. The 12-10 loss Saturday to Arapahoe High School at the Lumberjackie 7s in Evergreen ended a streak of dozens upon dozens of in-state games without a loss. But it also provided a reset button for a Summit squad effectively at the season’s midpoint, with a bye this coming weekend before returning to action at the Pink 7s tournament Oct. 11-12 in Salt Lake City.

“It’s not the desired result you ever want,” Tigers head coach Karl Barth said, “but I think a lot of good things are going to come out of it.”

“The team, they took it in stride,” the coach added. “They looked at it as, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better.’ We talked about it, and we said the coaching has got to get better. And also the little things they can do to push each other a little harder.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Barth said Summit will look to play a more unpredictable style to keep opponents on their heels. Despite the loss to Arapahoe, the Tigers team did well through the first portion of the season playing a fast, wide strategy in sync with their smaller stature and quick nature. Summit’s victory against elite in- and out-of-state sides at the Summit 7s tournament last month speaks to that.

That said, when you are the team on top of the mountain, the rest of the state not only brings its A game, they also key in on any tendencies or weaknesses you might have showcased in prior games.

Considering Arapahoe has long been one of Summit’s top foes in the state, Barth was well aware they had the ability to defeat Summit. Barth also commended Arapahoe for its game plan versus Summit the week prior, when the Tigers won 21-0 at the Valkyrie 7s tournament in Glenwood Springs in a game tougher and tighter than the scoreboard would indicate. It all lead up to the game a week later in Evergreen, where a couple of missed opportunities by Summit, namely dropped passes, enabled Arapahoe to stick in the game before pulling it out in the end.

“There are a couple of teams capable of beating us,” Barth said Thursday. “But for Arapahoe, they are a very strong team with a lot of good, big, powerful players. They have two kids who have played in the national team structure. They’ve got another kid (Kenzie Ricardi) who played for us last year. I think they got a lot of power, decent speed and a good game sense.”

Barth said although the Tigers held possession for most of the first half, they were under constant pressure from Arapahoe, as the opposition was adept at forcing tough decisions from the Tigers in terms of what to do with space on the pitch.

In the second half, Barth said Summit underwent some bad luck when it lost senior leader Nicole Kimball to a penalty. Playing man-down for a couple of minutes, Arapahoe converted a score with the advantage. The contest, suddenly a one-score game, turned further after Summit coughed up possession on a scoring opportunity before Arapahoe scored in extra time for the 12-10 win.

Through this practice week, Barth said the Tigers have continued to emphasize communication systems, dialing in what works best between players and coaches.

Barth said he and his coaching staff also have been self-reflective on what they can do better. With that in mind, the coach said it’s been a “heavy” week at practice, complete with more time in the weight room, increased scrimmage time and more time tackling.

The fact that this weekend is a bye also will help Barth and the coaches to pick up the urgency in practice. He said the Tigers won’t decrease their amount of physicality in order to get ready for a weekend tournament, as is normally the case.

Schematically, Barth is excited to see how this week’s work on the Tigers’ offensive attack sets up Summit’s ability to play different styles the rest of the season.

“I think we have some different ways to attack, given our size and speed,” the coach said. “We want to make it harder on the opposing defense to figure out where the breaks are coming.”

Summit girls rugby

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

Barth said the Tigers have leaned on senior leader Kimball this week, as the veteran has always exhibited a sense or urgency in practice and out on the game pitch. Barth said the leadership of vets like Kimball is crucial to help increase the output of the entire team and to ensure the Tigers are consistently working toward the team’s championship standard.

“And you can see it collectively in practice this week,” Barth said. “There is a much higher work rate out of the whole team. Part of it is for them to realize that you can convince yourself you are doing enough. And it’s the same from a coaching standpoint. You think that you are doing more, but then maybe you realize you’re not quite doing more.”

That said, the coach said he’s “psyched” about the progress the team has shown this week in practice. He said the increased intensity has led to a good week of competition in scrimmage formats.

Despite all of this week’s dialing in, the Tigers will get a breather this weekend, when Barth will join several Tiger players at the season-opening HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Glendale. Down at Infinity Park, the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team — which spent this past weekend team bonding up in Summit County — will take on some of the world’s other top international sides as they begin the journey to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

As part of the weekend, various girls high school rugby players from across the state will get the chance to play sevens at halftime. Barth said a group of younger Tiger players — junior Elena Francis, junior Maleena Mero, sophomore Olyvia Snyder, junior Deanna Davidson, sophomore Elizabeth Darst, sophomore Isabella Comai and sophomore Paola Arredondo — will get the chance to throw it around some on the state’s biggest stage.

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