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New Year, New Rugby: High School Girls Play 10's

Updated: Jan 22

As we enter a new era for Arizona girls rugby, it's only up from here. Last weekend we saw the first 10's (10 players per team) matches of the year, taking a step up from fall 7s (7 players per team). The 2 games played were not official league matches, but to get the rust out after the holiday break and ease into 10's. Both matches were very physical with no shying from contact. With only a few successful breakaways, the defense was definitely the star of the show last weekend.

The teams to show a full squad included the Scottsdale Wolves and Tucson Ravens. Red Mountain, Tempe, and Eclipse had some girls out to play as well, hopping in with the Ravens. The Ravens were captained by Kiley Pappas, who played at scrum half, and the Wolves were captained by Alex Sutandar, who also played at scrum half. The long-time "twin" duo were ecstatic to go head-to-head after the winter break.

The first match saw good movement from the Wolves, going against a solid wall of Ravens. As the ball started getting sloppy, there were plenty of turnovers. When the first Raven breakaway was made by Elisa Bolen, Charlotte Brandt came in with a double ankle tap from behind, flooring the ball carrier and the ref (sorry Sir!). The ball was then knocked forward, resulting in a scrum and Wolves inside center Brooke Taylor had a powerful run before getting stopped in her tracks by a brilliant speed bump tackle from Kiley Pappas. As play continued, Red Mountain/Ravens player Kawena Mason had a great try-saving tackle leading into halftime.

Back from half, it was the Wolves kickoff. Forward Laelia Casady was a turnover machine, gaining the ball back for the Wolves almost every kickoff. On top of ball possession, Casady has an incredible fend, busting through the defense leading her to get the first score of the match. At the next kickoff, Casady turned the ball over once again, getting the ball out to the backs with Brooke Taylor cutting through the defense for another try. As the Ravens received possession and traveled closer to the try line, the ball turned to the Wolves after a continuous series of turnovers. Scrum half Alex Sutandar had a pick-and-go, running the ball the whole field for the last score of the match with the conversion made by Taylor.

After a short break, the ladies returned to the field for a rematch. Right off the bat, the Ravens were running hard on offense. Unfortunately, with some sloppy passing we saw more turnovers leading to Scottsdale rookie Savannah Wohletz taking the ball into the try zone out on the wing. The next try was seen by Alex Sutandar, with another pick and go after a few crashes from the forward pack. At kickoff, Ravens Adanya Nicoson and Tai Fonoimoana had excellent support, gaining plenty of yards for the team. They ran through multiple tackles as the Wolves could not put them to ground. At the next penalty tap, Nicoson weaved through the defense for the first Ravens try of the day. The last try of the match was made by Charlotte Brandt, running through the defensive line at the 50-meter mark.

The Ravens played a confident game, and as the team works on their skills the season is looking optimistic. With fewer dropped balls and stronger passing, they will definitely start stacking up points. Coach Tim Pappas notes "Although there was a little rust to knock off, it was great to see these young athletes embracing the bigger version of the game. Matches were competitive and full of action". A lot of the players on the squad seem to have a natural instinct that is leading them to learn quickly. Another advantage for the team is their mental toughness. They all played fearlessly and never gave up, which is especially important when playing a more experienced team.

Scottsdale Wolves Coach Ted Brandt highlights the hard work his rookies put in at practice, and how it is paying off during these matches. They are not afraid to tackle and are eager for the ball. While the team was victorious this past weekend, there is a lot of work to put in for the season. The enthusiasm for play is there, but the Wolves need to tighten up the structure. Notably, 2 veteran players were out for the weekend, shifting around the team dynamics. Coach Ted also shouts out u15 player Bailyn Wrzesinske for her stand-out developmental match against Tempe's young rookie side. Wrzesinske read the field excellently and stacked up the points for her team. She practices with the Scottsdale high school team, elevating her game with the older girls.

It is great to see these young athletes come out to enjoy the game and make new friends. In the words of Raven's Coach Tim, "With Women's rugby being recognized as an NCAA emerging sport it is an exciting time for female athletes because of all the great opportunities to earn athletic scholarships to play the sport we love!". Seeing Arizona rugby take the step up to play 10's is great for creating a fair opportunity for these girls to continue their rugby careers after high school. Hopefully transitioning to 15's, Arizona is in the process of shaping well-rounded athletes eligible for scholarships and success both on and off the field. This year, we have many graduating seniors planning to continue their rugby careers across the country, paving a path for young Arizona ruggers.

This will be an exciting season for the development of girls' rugby in Arizona! Numbers are growing and the community shines bright. The official Spring season starts on January 20th, concluding in March. Saturdays are for rugby, so come out and support these young athletes! As they put in the work over the next few months you will be impressed!

Enjoy these pictures from the matches the game film can be found here.