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Anderson, Gessner rep Summit for U.S. team

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Special to the DailySummit High alum Jozy Gessner (front left) goes in for a tackle on SHS junior-to-be Haley Anderson during the training camp portion of the U-23 National All-Star Championships last week in Santa Barbara, Calif. Both Gessner and Anderson played for the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team in the tournament. Gessner, an All-American as a freshman last year at Colorado State, served as team captain.
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As U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team coach Bryn Chivers put it, there simply isn’t another high school program like that of the Summit Tigers.

“We get a lot of high schools that have players come through (the national team program), but none are like Summit,” Chivers said. “Beyond the sheer number of players, all of them arrive with a great understanding of how to play the game. They have the thinking of a much higher-level player.”

And, no, Chivers doesn’t coach skiing – the sport most would commonly associate with our mountain community.

Nope, this is women’s rugby.

Last week, at the U-23 National All-Star Championships in California, Summit junior-to-be Haley Anderson became the 11th SHS girls’ rugby player to make an appearance for the U-20 U.S. squad.

In doing so, Anderson joined former SHS standout and current collegiate All-American Jozy Gessner in leading Chivers’ U-20 team to an impressive 2-0 finish in the tournament.

The week was set up as a training camp for the country’s best women’s rugby players under the age of 23. Chivers said 58 players were invited to participate and Anderson, at 16, was the second-youngest player there.

“She’s very young,” Chivers said of Anderson. “We brought her in (to the camp) as a development player and to get her experience to play for the U-17 team. But she found herself in a situation where she found quite a bit of playing time (for the U-20 team).”

At the conclusion of the camp, the women were divided by region into eight teams for the tournament. And the U.S. U-20 team was entered as the eighth team in the bracket.

With Gessner captaining the U.S. team, the U-20 women dominated the squad from the south region 59-3.

Then the team was able to squeak out a double-overtime win over the pacific coast all-star team.

In the second game, Anderson got her first bit of playing time, entering the match at halftime and playing all the way through the two overtime periods until the U.S. finished with a 22-18 win.

“That was a very physical and challenging game for someone that young to play in,” Chivers said. “For a young player to keep their head the way she did, it shows she has a lot of potential.”

Gessner, meanwhile, was the same steady force that dominated the pitch in her days at Summit. Even with a switch to scrumhalf – she’s always played flanker for the U.S. team – Chivers couldn’t express enough the importance that Gessner had for the team.

“She’s been with the program for four years since she was 16,” Chivers said. ” … She has lots of international experience, and being the captain of the squad now, she took that challenge head on.

“She was really able to bring all the players together and, more than anything, really teach them what being a national team player is all about.”

Gessner graduated from Summit High in 2009. She was the Colorado State Player of the Year her senior year, leading the Tigers to an unbeaten season and a state title. This past season, as a freshman for Colorado State in Fort Collins, Gessner was named an All-American.

Anderson, meanwhile, was a standout sophomore for the Tigers last fall – a season in which Summit dominated in a fashion not often seen in sports. The Tigers finished unbeaten for a second straight year, but more impressively, they averaged more than 60 points per game while giving up a single try – for the season.

Both Anderson and Gessner will remain with the U-20 squad the rest of the summer, as the U.S. will compete in the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Championships in the Bahamas Aug. 15-21. Both Canada and the Americans will be taking their U-20 squads to match up against the other counties’ top national teams.

And in a tourney with such steep competition, Chivers said he expects both Summit natives to show exactly what makes the Tiger program so formidable on the national scene.

“The way (SHS head coach) Karl (Barth) teaches the kids the technical side of the game, it prepares them like no one else,” Chivers said. “It’s definitely an advantage they have against even the top players.”


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