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summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

WESTMINSTER – It didn’t take long for the Summit High rugby team to show exactly why it came into Saturday’s state championship match against Douglas County unbeaten.

Alex Cooper intercepted an errant Douglas County pass on the right sideline in the first minute of play. The speedy Summit junior then juked a defender at midfield and was gone, untouched down the sideline for a try.

Although the match didn’t play out quite as easily as Cooper’s score looked, the Tigers controlled the game against a much bigger opponent and the outcome was never in doubt.

Cooper finished the day with four tries, sophomore Haley Anderson scored 19 points, and Summit rode a monster first half to a 49-0 win and its third state title in four years.

“It’s a good feeling,” Cooper said of the win. “It doesn’t feel like it was that big of a difference, it felt a lot closer. They definitely rocked us – They hit hard.”

The Tigers withstood every scrum, ruck and hit that Douglas County threw at them, though, using their incredible team speed to simply outrun and wear down their opponent.

Summit was able to slip through the Douglas County defense for four tries before halftime. Each score was finished off by a conversion kick by Anderson, who went 7-7 on kicks for the match.

Tiger head coach Karl Barth couldn’t have been more pleased with his team after the win, not just for the final score and the title, but simply with the way his girls played.

“They are big, physical and strong, and they weren’t going to back down,” Barth said of his team’s opponent. “They came out strong, and it certainly wasn’t a runaway.”

The Tigers, though, have beaten down every one of their opponents all season, despite being a much smaller team than most. Summit averaged 60.7 points per game, while giving up just a single try in its 10 matches.

Senior captain Bri Barto summed up nicely why her team’s mentality heading into a game simply gives them an edge.

“They were so physical,” said senior captain Bri Barto. ” … But we had the mentality that it doesn’t matter how big we are or how big they are, we play bigger than we are. We went out thinking that we were 6-foot-3, 300 pounds and going to kick some butt.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

After Cooper’s only 1:21 into the first half, she recorded another tally about four minutes later. Anderson made a quick pass to sophomore Kelly Joyce, who cut to the middle of the field near Douglas County’s 10-yard line. Joyce, in the grasp of tacklers, then slipped the ball to Cooper who went in for the try.

Senior Haley Armstrong then scored for the Tigers after getting a nice pass from sophomore Sarah Johnson.

When Anderson scored her try at the end of the half – off a pass from Barto – the Tigers led 28-0 at the break.

“It was back-and-forth, they didn’t give us anything, and we didn’t give them anything,” Barto said of the half.

Douglas County tightened its defense in the second half, but still couldn’t contain Summit’s speed.

Senior Katy Aceto scored off a scrum early in the half, before Cooper ran in for two more to finish off the scoring.

Maybe more impressive than the Tigers’ scoring outburst was their dominating defense. Summit never allowed Douglas County within 30 yards of the Tiger end line, thus preserving the Tigers’ eight game shutout streak.

“They played defense well, today – the past two weeks, they’ve played defense really well,” Barth said of his girls.

The rough win on a brisk and snowy day at North Stadium in Westminster capped off a celebratory afternoon for the Tigers. Before the game, the team learned that it had 11 players on the 22-girl all-state team. And senior Bri Barto was awarded the state’s Player of the Year honor.

“She’s been a great leader of the team,” Barth said. ” … It’s awesome for her, she really deserves it.”

“Not many of our forwards got recognize by all-state or things like that, but Erin Goodell, Stephany McDowell, Ariel (Johnson) … they set the table so everyone can eat,” the coach added.

In addition, the Tigers were also awarded the team sportsmanship award, voted on by opposing teams.

“They try to be a class act all year and try to represent more than just themselves,” Barth said. “When you beat teams by 60 points, then they vote you to be the team with the best sportsmanship, I told the girls, that’s an impressive feat.”

The Tigers, who have now gone unbeaten in back-to-back seasons, aren’t expecting to lose a step next year. And don’t expect them to get complacent either.

“I don’t think it will ever get old,” Anderson said of winning, “because each time new things happen and you can accomplish new things. We gain more every game we play.”

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