SEATTLE – The Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS kick off their second tour of 2016 at Magnuson Park Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT against BC Rugby U18 Women’s.
Farrah Douglas’ ‘east’ teams – a typical under-18 national team in addition to an under-16 squad – pulled off four combined wins in two matches apiece against Rugby Quebec’s respective sides July 29 and Aug. 1 on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University. The ‘west’ team selected for the assembly in Seattle has been housed at Seattle University since Tuesday, and will complete the tour with a second match Sunday.
“We will see nine returning players from last summer’s tour,” Douglas said of Friday’s roster, referring to the two-match series win against BC Rugby’s under-18 team north of the border in 2015. “We will look to these players to bring leadership and experience. However, much like the ‘east’ teams, our returning players left Canada last summer unsatisfied. We are looking to be more effective in establishing our attacking shape and more purposeful in how we attack and fracture the opposition.
“A big change for us this campaign has been a bigger focus on establishing defensive superiority through cut tackles and relentless pursuit of the ball. The staff is looking to see more mastery and control of the game from our players.”
One returner from last year’s tour is Nia Toliver, who will wear No. 15 Friday evening. Her play with ICEF Rugby earned her some time abroad in New Zealand, where she spent several months training at Burnside High School’s academy as a 16-year-old. Captain Mata Hingango has also pulled on the GHSAA jersey before, and has attended multiple Stars and Stripes Camps in case her credentials as one of the best up-and-coming rugby players were not concrete.
Cassidy Bargell is the most recent returner to the GHSAAs having represented the U.S. against Rugby Quebec’s under-16s last weekend. (Correction: Cassidy’s sister, Delani, was with the under-16 GHSAAs last week) Neither GHSAA team appeared to be troubled by a newer age-grade program from north of the border in large-margin victories, but the invaluable experience gained by the young women in the assembly overshadowed the score lines.
“The score is not indicative of the pressure they put our players under,” Douglas said. “As with all teams traveling long distances with short turnaround between games, the Canadians, true to their national team’s style, were aggressive at the tackle contest, ran hard lines, and forced many errors in our midfield. We are looking forward to continuing to build our relationships with them as we look to not only develop the game in the U.S. but in North America.”
Like the players’ feelings at the end of a short tour last summer, the ‘east’ GHSAAs were not overall pleased with the most recent assembly, either. The short time frame offers its own challenges, and the coaching staff took solace in the fact the players were able to adapt to a new game plan and new teammates, and took on the challenge of representing their country with professionalism. The score line obviously indicated as much, but there were still standards the team did not meet that will be addressed in the future.
“I don’t know that a coach can say we’re disappointed when their teams come away undefeated and outscore the opponent by a significant amount, however both the staff and players were not satisfied,” Douglas said of the ‘east’ assembly. “We have begun to establish our standards as players and as a program, and what we define as success and what we will accept as competitive excellence.”
The GHSAA program itself only began in early 2015 with the assistance of ATAVUS, and assemblies at that year’s Las Vegas Invitational and in Canada were the only two to precede this summer’s. As the younger players receive more time with the national team staff in a high performance environment, there will be more opportunities for them to progress through the pathway to the AIG Women’s Junior All-Americans, AIG Women’s Collegiate All-Americans, and the senior 15s and sevens teams.
There are no plans to stream Friday’s match, but the All-American Twitter handle (@aarugby) will provide match updates.
Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | v. BC Rugby U18 Women’s
1. Finau Tamaviena
2. Destiny Arena
3. Tiara A’au
4. Cearra Bettcher
5. Mililani Leui
6. Lolo Makaafi
7. Julie Riekena
8. Tiana A’au
9. Cassidy Bargell
10. Mele Tausinga
11. Alexandra Sedrick
12. McKenna Strong
13. Mata Hingano (C)
14. Sui A’au
15. Nia Toliver
Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | Reserves
16. Lily Brown
17. Penina Tuilaepa
18. Rian Moala
19. Winter (Lily) O’Brien
20. Cheyene Nielson
21. Seuini Imari
22. Brianna Vaquez
23. MaryJane Paisoles
Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | Coaching Staff
Farrah Douglas – Head Coach
Ricardo Ramirez – Assistant Coach
Shawn Pittman – Assistant Coach
Sarah Leslie – Physiotheraphist
Carrie DuBray – Manager
Jacque Harrell – Manager
Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS | West U18
v. BC U18s – Friday, Aug. 5
v. BC U18s – Sunday, Aug. 7