June 24, 2024


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Summit girls rugby numbers soar ahead of highly anticipated fall season

Summit freshman Vivi Taylor collects the ball while freshman Ester Thoma rucks during the rugby scrimmage held at Tiger Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 2.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

Senior Ashlyn Mullaly is one of the 60 girls who came out for — and stuck with — the Summit High School girls rugby program heading into the fall season. For Mullaly, joining the proud state-championship program was something she wanted to do despite the fact that she’s a senior.

“The environment and school spirit is a huge part of coming back after a really hard year,” Mullaly said.

What she joined the team for was on full display Thursday night at Tiger Stadium at Summit’s traditional Green vs. White preseason scrimmage. Students, family and friends packed the bleachers to the same volume as a Friday night football game. Before the game, players enjoyed the Summit rugby tradition of hand-painting the team’s green and white colors on one another. And the program’s top players — such as seniors Milly Carleton and Jenna Sheldon — excitedly ran water bottles out to younger freshman and junior-varsity players once their own time on the pitch was up.

Longtime, revered Tigers head coach Karl Barth said Thursday night’s student section energy was awesome. And though the scrimmage — which Green won 59-54 over White — wasn’t judged by the score, it was a victory to Barth because so many girls got the chance to play, as each side rolled in players over several sessions, from the best varsity players to the most inexperienced freshmen.

“The energy — the student section energy — it’s been awesome,” Barth said. “And then this group in general — there are 60 girls on the team this year — that’s much more than normal. Usually, you have about 50 or so that come through, and a bunch decide not to play. But this is — like, none of them have left.”

Barth said the sheer turnout for this year’s program means he could field five sevens teams for action this fall, though he will likely play only four at tournaments to start the season. That compares with the three total teams the program fielded in recent years.

This year’s Tigers program is loaded with talent that Barth said should make the top three teams competitive at the statewide level, including essentially two varsity teams. That, of course, includes the program’s top team, which now has won 13-consecutive state championships.

Barth said Thursday that the Tigers’ top team is starting the season with an incredibly good level of chemistry. What the coach is ironing out ahead of next Saturday’s season-opening Summit 7s tournament at Tiger Stadium is just where each of the talented top players will play.

A pair of Summit High School girls rugby players are lifted high in the air during a line-out in the Green-White scrimmage held at Tiger Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 2.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

The Tigers lost several pivotal players from last spring’s state-championship squad, but the coach did single out the importance of replacing Brielle Quigley at sweeper and Bryton Ferrari at flyhalf for this year’s group to reach its full potential.

At sweeper, last season Ferrari was the plug-and-play fill-in for Quigley, such as when the senior was forced out of the state championship with a broken nose. The coach said Paola Arredondo, a very athletic junior, has risen to the occasion as the replacement for Quigley after Arredondo did not play last spring due to a broken wrist suffered during the Tigers varsity girls basketball season.

Arredondo will help to anchor a speedy counter-attack for Summit offensively that will also include another elite-level athlete in junior Joselin Roque as well as arguably the school’s best athlete, male or female, senior ski star Olyvia Snyder. At Thursday’s scrimmage, the Tigers’ top side reeled off four scores, or tries, at the start of the action against a very stout White team defense. Although White rose to the occasion to stymie those top Green players, Barth said the second Green’s athletes countered into an opening, the White opponents were left in the dust.

“All of them can create something out of nothing,” Barth said. “It’s just figuring out do we want to spread them across the field? Do we want them to mirror each other? Which players fit into roles and positions better.”

As for Ferrari’s successor at flyhalf, senior Elisabeth Darst showed Thursday that she has the ability to control a game, albeit in a different manner than Ferrari. Rather than Ferrari’s more north-south aggressive, slashing style, Darst is adept at distributing to the likes of Arredondo and Roque on each side while spearheading a poised offensive attack.

The Tigers will be led at the prop position by senior leaders Milly Carleton and another dual ski-rugby star in Jenna Sheldon. Barth said Carleton has vastly improved since last spring, rounding her game into a more dynamic presence, while the versatile Sheldon is 100% healthy and raring to help her rugby sisters any way she can. And then there’s another uber-talented and experienced player in senior Isabella Comai rounding out Summit’s likely top-seven starters, with numerous eager reserves waiting in the wings.

So what does Sheldon think makes this group special?

“Resilience,” she said. “Every spot on that top team is an earned spot. It’s awesome to see people who fought their way to be up there right now.”


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