Moving as one: Tigers eye three-peat
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
FARMER’S KORNER – Head coach Karl Barth calls it a “high risk, high reward system.”
Controlled chaos might be a good way to describe it, too, as in complete control for the Tigers and utter chaos for any team trying to defend them.
Either way, when the Summit High girls’ rugby team takes to the pitch, there isn’t a single team in the state that resembles it, both in style and results.
“We have very few set plays,” Barth said. ” … They work on little components, and they put it together on the fly. We spend a lot of time teaching them to read the defense and then react to it or manipulate it.”
It basically breaks down into a high-flying, free-flowing style of play with quick passes spreading the field and, as Barth put it, putting his “athletes in positions to just be athletes.”
Anyone curious with how it works simply needs to show up to a Summit game. The Tigers put on a clinic every time they play.
Heading into Saturday’s state title tilt, Summit has outscored its opponents 580-21 over nine games, an average margin of victory of more than 62 points per match. To put that in perspective, neither Summit hoops teams averaged that many points last year. The Tigers have eclipsed 70 points four different times, including a 99-point effort against Chaparral just three weeks ago.
“We tackle some concepts that some people think is above this level of play,” Barth said.
It makes sense, the Tigers seem to play the sport at a totally different level than anyone in the state. That’s why when Summit takes on Douglas County on Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale, the Tigers will be going for their third straight state title and seventh since 1998.
Summit hasn’t lost a game since the 2007 title game, meaning only a handful of the Tigers’ upperclassmen have ever lost a game in a Summit uniform, a fact that’s not lost on them.
“It’s definitely weird to think about,” senior co-captain Alex Cooper said. “I don’t really know what it would be like to lose a game of rugby with our team anymore. It’s kind of crazy.”
The Tigers aren’t taking Douglas County lightly, though. Two of their closest games this season were against the school they faced last year in the championship. Although, the scores weren’t exactly close.
Summit beat Douglas County 34-0 in the season opener with a number of girls unable to play due to various reasons, and the Tigers won the rematch 52-5.
“No predictions,” Barth said, “except they’ll come to play for 70 minutes. Hopefully, we do, too.”
The Tigers will have at least three all-state players from last season sitting out. Senior co-captain Rosa Foth has missed the entire season with an injury, and juniors Haley Anderson and Kelly Joyce will also be out. Cooper, who’s been nursing a shoulder injury, will be a “game-time decision,” Barth said.
But, Summit has grown used to playing without many of its top players, as the team’s been hit hard this season by various injuries and illnesses.
All three captains – Foth, Cooper and Heidi Gruber – have all missed at least one game each, and the list of other players forced to sit out this fall reads like an entire roster.
Still, while other teams would struggle to fill the gaps, the Tigers have somehow sustained their level of play no matter who was sitting out.
“We obviously miss them,” Barth said. “You can do different things, but a lot of kids stepped up, which was awesome.”
Junior Emmy Griffith, who has anchored the backline all season from the fullback spot, said her team’s depth is pretty impressive, and it showed when the team went to vote for their postseason awards.
“We have an award for an MVP, and it was really hard to come up with it,” she said. “It’s great because we’re all really important and we’re all just team players.”
“A lot of it has to do with the coaches,” Gruber added. “They make sure that everyone is ready and everyone is where they have to be.”
And that’s really all the Tigers ever focus on: How they play. It doesn’t matter the opponent, the score or even the result, the Tigers are only focused on themselves.
“Most of the time, I don’t even know the score at the end of the game,” sophomore Katy Peoples said. “I mean, I know we won, but I don’t really pay attention to the score.”
Saturday’s game is slated for a 3:50 p.m. start.
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