Summit Black dominates Tigers’ girls rugby tourney
If there were any questions about who’s the team to beat coming into Saturday’s girls rugby tournament at Summit High School, the hosting Tigers answered them by taking down Westside Swarm 33-5 in the championship bout.
The two rivals both came into the 7s Series tourney hampered by injuries and undefeated. Westside held the tiebreaker due to its strength of schedule, but none of that mattered because, playing in opposite pools, Summit Black and the Swarm were on a collision course throughout the daylong 16-team tournament. All they had to do was keep winning, and win they did.
With the two powerhouse rugby programs meeting in Saturday’s finale, the game was a rematch of last year’s state championship, which Summit won 10-5. For the Tigers seniors, this would be their last contest at home, and after the game, coach Karl Barth said, “They went out in style.”
Summit saw strong performances across the board, including from team captain Cassidy Bargell, Kassidy “KP” Pothier, PK Vincze, Erin Scott-Williams and a host of other Tigers.
Cece Pennell drew first blood for Summit in the title game when she broke through the Swarm defenders and raced across the tryline for five points. Pennell was successful on the two-point conversion, and Summit was up 7-0.
“Cece is money,” Barth said of his kicker, explaining that after losing last year’s kicker to graduation, the Tigers had a huge hole to fill and Pennell hasn’t disappointed.
“She’s missed one (conversion) all year,” Barth continued. “She’s just been excellent, which is awesome. It’s not only the conversions — it’s also the advantage we get on kickoffs because that’s a huge chance for us to either get the ball back or put them under pressure.”
At the same time, Pothier was a force on defense, and one of the reasons Summit’s victory was so convincing.
“I just have to hit them low and hard,” she said of her job as a forward. “I feel like when you hit them hard, it sets the tone for the game.”
Shortly after Pennell’s try and conversion, Bargell shook past a few defenders and scored one herself. Another successful conversion from Pennell and the Tigers had taken a 14-0 lead over the Swarm.
Even more impressive is that Bargell is not far removed from a broken wrist, an injury she suffered about a month ago while playing for the U18 U.S.A. girls rugby team in Canada. Not one to be held back, Bargell had her cast taken off early so she could return to the pitch. Her presence on Saturday did not go unnoticed.
“The best thing about players like (Bargell) is they make everyone around them that much better,” Barth said. “It’s not one person doing it. You can see it’s balanced across the board, which is really nice.”
The Swarm responded with a first-half try of their own. However, that would be their only score of the game, and Summit junior Clara Copley quickly erased it with another try for Summit before the half.
“Beast mode,” Barth said of Copley’s play as the two passed each other in the locker room.
In the second half, Bargell scored again, this time dragging Swarm defenders across the tryline as she grounded the ball for five points. Scott-Williams scored the final try of the game, and Summit celebrated under a downpour that was quickly turning into small-sized hail.
For the Tigers, the victory squarely puts the target on their backs. Summit might be feeling the pressure, but Bargell wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like pressure,” she said after the game. “I thrive under pressure, and I think a lot us thrive. It’s just like, next week we know what we have to work for, and (Saturday’s championship), there were mistakes that we made. It wasn’t completely dominant, and that gives us some things to work on.”
With the victory, Summit Black remains undefeated on the year at 7-0 in Girls 7s Series play.
For Copley and many of the Summit Black players who played on the Tigers’ second-tier team, Summit White, last year, they had never beat the Swarm, and that made Saturday’s win even sweeter.
“Half of the White team is the Black team now, and it really felt amazing to beat (the Swarm),” Pothier said, adding that it felt even better because they did it “playing like a team and playing the game that we wanted to play.”
The Tigers travel to the Air Force Academy next week for the Falcon 7s tournament.
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