Guest coaching helps light fire for rugby girls |

Guest coaching helps light fire for rugby girls

Shauna Farnell

SILVERTHORNE – There’s nothing like dropping in a little NFL influence to give the No. 1 Summit Girls Rugby team an extra push before the state tournament this weekend.

Former Denver Broncos wide receiver and punter Billy Van Heusen has been teaching the girls the finer details of dropkicking at practice in Silverthorne this week. Van Heusen, who played for the Broncos between 1968 and 1976, is now a Summit County resident and was invited to rugby practice by Jim Gentling, COO of Arapahoe Basin, which is the team’s sponsor.

“I don’t know an awful lot about rugby, but there are a number of similarities in punting,” Van Heusen said. “I was a wide receiver for the Broncos, but in those days, the coach would say, “Who can punt?’ and you’d raise your hand. In the NFL, you’re protected when you punt. When you’re punting the rugby ball, you’re subject to being hit. The technique is pretty much the same. You want to drop the ball the same every time. The most consistent punters in the NFL drop the ball the same every time.”

Gentling, whose daughter, Sally, is one of Summit’s leading scorers, also was helping out at practice Tuesday, as was former Ohio State University special teams coach Christopher Cotner. The help was much welcomed by the team, and contributors were pleased to offer their two cents.

“What’s fun here is to see that girls sports have come so far,” Van Heusen said. “These girls are fully dedicated. You can tell by watching them in the drills. They’re seriously working hard, hitting, doing everything you need to do to be ready. That’s good coaching and dedication. They seem to be very disciplined.”

The Summit team is at a crucial stage of preparation for the end of the season, having lost 5-0 to rival Littleton last weekend. Although the team still holds the No. 1 spot in Colorado, it had to hand over the prized rugby ball carried by the dominant of the two teams.

“It was almost three years to the day that we got the ball when we beat (Littleton) 5-0,” said Summit rugby coach Karl Barth. “We got outplayed. It was like a Frazier-Ali match up, blow for blow. We shut down the best back line in the state, but their forwards beat ours. They stepped it up. That was it.”

Following the Littleton game, the Summit U17 team slaughtered Boulder 29-0 with four tries by Amy Clark. The inaugural middle school game between Summit’s U15 team and Sagewood ended in a 20-20 draw.

“All five of our Summit players played really well,” said U15 coach Carlos Ebert-Santos. “The littlest one – Hanna Harvey – is our only sixth-grader, but she had three tries and three big, try-saving tackles.”

Ebert-Santos, the former quarterback for the Summit High School football team who was paralyzed during the September 2000 homecoming game, is still progressing in physical therapy. He walks with a cane, jogs in the pool, and can ride a stationary bike. He is helping coach the younger Summit girls rugby team and the Breckenridge Blue Goose men’s team and leaves in the fall to attend Hawaii-Pacific University.

The extra fire provided by special guest coaching has lit the intensity of the Summit girls team. But it doesn’t want to get too smug about its first-place status for this weekend’s Colorado Cup, in which all slots for the national tournament in Seattle are up for grabs.

“It’s disappointing when you go out there and you know people could be hitting harder and going for the ball, but the intensity’s been really flat,” said Summit senior Lisa Wallace. “This weekend will be really interesting, because anything can happen.”

“When we play teams we don’t believe are as good as ours, we slack off,” added Rose Wasinger. “We need to keep from being lazy and keep a positive attitude. We really have to go out there wanting to win.”

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