Getting the chance to represent your country is a coveted opportunity for athletes around the world. Although selections are based on hard work and strong performances, we know it takes a lot of support to achieve this honor. The club and select side coaches that have helped these players reach athletic career goals are arguably the most important benefactors. Camps, tournaments, test matches, and assemblies are crucial but the foundation is laid from year-round development and opportunities to play with local programs. Let's take a look at the programs this year's Europe U18 7s Championship All-Americans hail from. You can also learn more about the players here.
With three United players suiting up this weekend for the All-Americans, it is hard not to take note of what coaches Matt and Tanya Kanenwisher and William Tenney are doing. Crowned the 2017 Girls High School National Champions after defeating powerhouse Fallbrook in the spring, veterans Charity Tenney and Kat Stowers join the squad alongside young Lua Stowers.
You won't see any of Coach Marin Pinnell's Fallbrook Warriors playing this weekend as they have aged out of the pool. GHSAA alumni Michel Navarro, Lilly Durbin, and Kayla Canett are continuing their careers at their respective universities as well as dawning the red, white, and blue the but we are excited for the next generation of talent coming Fallbrook.
Atavus Lions Academy, formerly known as Utah Lions Academy, has been providing domestic and international competition oppriotnuties and year-round training to multiple boys and girls players in the state thanks to President Mike Cressler. Delaney Rakuita is one of those players, boasting a lot of rugby experience for her age. Ratuika was busy last summer, helping bring the United World Games title in Austria back to Utah and was a part of the first ever GHSAA U16 team.
Emo Pula's South Bay Spartans out of Carson, California are a newer program but have made a huge splash in the past few years with strong performances at Nationals. Long time All-American Brianna Vasquez hails from the Spartans and will be bringing some serious speed and experience to the tournament this weekend.
It only makes sense that the oldest girls' high school team in the country has been producing National team quality players for some time now. With one of the strongest alumni player lists around, there's no doubt Head Coach Rex Norris has played a huge role with the success of Washington-based Kent Crusaders and the likes of players such as Lolo Makaafi. With a fierce step and dominate physicality, Makaafi has been learning the game from this historical club her whole high school career.
Colorado is a massive rugby state, from youth to elite club, and Summit High School's program is a huge contributor to that. Summit has been a household name for girls rugby for many years now thanks to Coach Karl Barth. Tournament captain and veteran GHSAA member, Cassidy Bargell, is Barth's latest national team level player from the program. Bargell's last sevens tournaments were alongside an older group, suiting up for the USA Falcons in Vegas and Vancouver. Cassidy's ability to think on her feet, and distribute the ball will allow her to lead the team effectively.
Current USA 15s and 7s Eagles, Martin Iosefo and Nicole Heavirland, have Montana roots, and at the rate Julia Riekena of the Missoula Valley Vixens is performing, you can anticipate she will be next to join them. You can expect the dynamic aerialist to cause problems on restarts, in the scrums, and at the breakdown all weekend long.
Rugby in Texas is growing, there’s no question there. But with lower girls high school player numbers than most states, it can be hard to stand out. Yet that hasn’t stopped Kingwood Rugby Club’s Josh Dil and Nick Carline developing athletes ready to play top level rugby and finding competitive opportunities. As a result, Kingwood’s Mckenzie Borchers is finding herself in her second All-American squad.
Lindenwood University’s men’s and women’s programs are probably Missouri’s most well-known rugby teams after the past few years of success in both formats of the game. KC United is working on bringing up their clout in the high school scene though with a few All-Americans of their own. Flanker, Madylyn Becker, just returned from the 2017 CanAm Series tour in Ottawa. Teammate and speedster, Kiara Mosley, is preparing for her second GHSAA appearance.
Close to the Canadian border and multiple surrounding states, the Northeast is a prime region for rugby competition and development. Both Pennsylvania and New York boast successful programs at all levels of the game but the high school competition is particularly strong. White Horse Rugby has been a forced to be reckoned with in Pennsylvania. With close ties to the Atlantis program, Club President Wayne DiMarco has been coaching a sevens system that others in the region struggle to score against, resulting in back to back sevens title in 2015 and 2016. Alex DiMarco has been a leader for White Horse and will use her experience from her most recent GHSAA tour as flyhallf that will keep tournament opponents honest in France.
Orchard Park Rugby of West New York also sees family ties as coaches Lisa Henrich, Orchard Park alumni, and Amanda Thompson are excited for Emily Henrich to continue her All-American success. After a call-up to play outside center for the WJAA, Henrich adds even more experience to this team. Her ability to find the try zone in both sevens and fifteens will be a huge advantage.