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Minnesota Girls Impressive in Win

HS Girls

Minnesota Girls Impressive in Win

Led by player-of-the-game performances by inside back Kristin Tanner of Armstrong and Hopkins flanker Andrea Sanabria, the Minnesota girls all-star team defeated Wisconsin to win the Midwest Rugby Challenge Sunday in Elkart, Ind.

The victory capped off a best-ever all-star effort by Minnesota, which has been too often the bridesmaid team in recent years.

Minnesota had beaten Ohio in a close game on Saturday only to see Wiconsin beat Ohio convincingly in the semis. They knew, then, they had their hands full.

"We were unsure of what to expect from Wisconsin, as we hadn't seen them in two years," said Minnesota Head Coach Jimmy Hanson. "Wisconsin seemed to cruise through their bracket pretty easily, but we weren't sure if their their bracket was weaker. I know a handful of the kids on the Wisconsin squad from the All American camp and Midwest camps, so I knew they had some phenomenal players."

Hanson wanted his team to take the game to Wisconsin physically, and despite being overall a young squad, they did just that.


"We only had one brief practice session to prepare the kids, and we spent the entire time focused on getting all of the kids to play as physically as possible and keep moving forward, focusing on physically winning all contact situations whether it be rucks, tackling, or being tackled," said Hanson. "We thought if we could keep the other teams under heavy physical pressure, we'd be able to force mistakes and turn over the ball." 
 
Tenth-grade center Sara Juelfs (Hastings) had earned the nickname "Small Fry" because of her size. But the 15-year-old was excellent in the final and saw her monicker upgraded to "Big Mac" as a result. Wing Maureen Booth (Orono) and Cecilia Hammond (North Suburban) shut down much of Wisconsin's attack. 
 
"We struggled to win set pieces on day one against Ohio, so we shuffled our lineup around a little bit," said Hanson.

Forwards captain Jenny Menendez (Faribault) moved from prop to hooker, and that move made a big difference as she did well to distrupt Wisconsin scrum ball.

With Wisconsin's outside center Anisa Feto (Oak Creek) expected to challenge the gain line and hit hard on defense, Minnesota decided to run loops and skip moves to get the ball past her. This worked early and set up a try for speedster Renee Gonzalez (Armstrong). However, Feto scored running up the weak side after a scrum to even things.

The physicality of the game made for several knock-ons, and the offenses sputtered somewhat. Minnesota led 12-5 at halftime. Just a few minutes into the second half injuries forced Minnesota to shuffle their backline. Tanner moved from flyhalf to inside center, and Gonzalez from fullback to outside center. Freshman Tatum Johnson came on at wing, and later scrumhalf. All of these players kept up their form. Tanner raced 70 meters seconds after being moved to center, and eventually offloaded to Gonzalez for the try.

Minnesota added one more to finish it up 24-5.


MInnesota Girls All-Star squad

Last

First

Club/HS

Pos.

Strehlow

Liillian

Hopkins

1

Duenow

Samantha

North Suburban

1

Menendez

Jenny

Faribault

2

Miller

Megan

Hastings

2

Williams

Sonetta

Armstrong

3

LeFebvre

Kristin

Hastings

4

Cargin

Maggie

Hastings

4

Miller

Brooke

North Suburban

5

Thomas

Chloe

Armstrong

5

Struzyk

Alexis

Edina

6

Carrillo

Chelsy

Burnsville

6

Sanabria

Andrea

Hopkins

7

Mielke

Bridget

Orono

7

Combs

AnnaMarie

Faribault

8

Haley

Picco

North Suburban

8

Johnson

Tatum

North Suburban

9

Haylee

Thull

Armstrong

9

Kristin

Tanner

Armstrong

10

Hammond

Cecilia

North Suburban

11

Fromstein

Ellie

Hopkins

12

Booth

Maureen

Orono

13

Juelfs

Sara

Hastings

13

Dornamen

Blaire

Orono

14

Mallory

Ward

Faribault

14

Renee

Gonzalez

Armstrong

15