Valley Valkyries girls rugby scrums through tournament at Spring Valley
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club was the de facto champion of its hosted tournament this weekend.
The high school girls rugby club went 2-1 with a roster of mostly rookies at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus on Saturday and was prepared for its championship match before its would-be opponent departed before kickoff.
At the time of writing, Colorado Rugby had yet to decide if the Valkyries would be named champion by forfeit or if the whole thing would just be a wash. To the players, many of whom were in just their second competition ever in the sport, it’s a moot point.
“Everyone was just super into having fun and playing good rugby,” Valkyries coach Ike Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think the players are going to care about (the de facto championship). It was just a good weekend of rugby.”
The Conifer-based Lumberjackies beat the Valkyries to open the day and went 3-0 in the tournament before leaving early. Fitzgerald said he would’ve liked another crack at them because he “didn’t like how we started the day,” but was resolute in the knowledge of his team’s rapid development.
The Valkyries are composed of 10 players, seven from Glenwood Springs High School and three from Basalt. The 7s team, named for how many players are on the field, started its first practice of the season with no subs. The majority of the roster had never touched a rugby ball before the summer.
Now, just two weeks later, the rugby club has sky-high expectations.
“I can honestly say we might not lose another game this season,” Fitzgerald said.
The Valkyries have been around since 2018 and have made their presence known in their short time as a club. In their inaugural year, they went on a 14-game winning streak as they progressed up from beginner to higher tiers, Fitzgerald said.
They didn’t have a season last year, meaning the then-sophomores and freshmen from two years ago are now the team’s upperclassmen. The team is still open to new walk-ons.
The now-juniors on the team didn’t play much as freshmen, either, Fitzgerald said. One senior, Annalise Richardson, is the seasoned veteran.
“I just got to liking the environment a lot,” Richardson said. “I get the chance to play with my teammates and just hang out with them.”
Richardson loves the sport for a few different reasons. The physical aspect is fun. It keeps her in shape.
But she was quickest to note the camaraderie the team has. The novelty, as well as the physicality, make rugby players a tight-knit group. Basalt senior Haylie Bledsaw, who joined the team mere weeks ago, has already noticed the difference between rugby and other sports.
“Compared to other sports that I’ve played, this team is definitely more about connecting and creating those bonds,” Bledsaw said.
It extends beyond the team as well. At tournaments like Saturday’s, the in-group of rugby players mingle with other teams in between matches, developing the sense of community.
For players like Bledsaw, it’s a different way to play sports in high school. But for some, it can lead to more. Women’s rugby is one of the highest in-demand scholarships at the collegiate level, Fitzgerald said. Richardson, in her conversations with colleges, is exploring staying in the sport. Two program alumnae played each other at the collegiate club level on Sunday — Angie Gonzalez for Colorado State University and Tami Islas Morales for the University of Colorado.
For the time being, it’s about playing a sport few other girls in Western Colorado are playing. The Valkyries play next at Infinity Park in Denver on Saturday.
As a team, Aspen finished third overall in its lone home tournament of the fall. The Skiers shot a collective 239, finishing 12 back of fellow 3A powerhouse Colorado Academy (227). Steamboat Springs, out of 4A, shot 225 to take the win.
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