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Plesanton Girls a Pleasant Surprise

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Plesanton Girls a Pleasant Surprise

Only three years old the Pleasanton girls team won the Tier II of the Girls NIT, defeating State College, Kingston, and Morris while allwoing only three points.

The Northern California team started in 2011 when Caitlin Reid approached coaches in the Pleasanton youth program about starting a girls rugby team. Reid, who had grown up in Scotland and been part of a rugby family, wanted in on the fun.

So they had one player, and after a youth camp going into 2012 they got another girl. Two became six, and then ten, and finally 15. They played, and won, NorCal's DII girls league, and kept going from there. 

This year, Pleasanton beat teams such as Bishop O'Dowd and Danville on their way to an undefeated league season, and also tested themselves against eventual NIT winners Fallbrook.

"I think we play in the best girls rugby league in the USA," said coach Steve Lopez. "It really tests us. We figured going into the NIT we would do well, but I don't know if we saw ourselves winning it. What we wanted to do was play our game - see the space, see the game for what it is, and be dynamic."

Not a big team, Pleasanton wins by being fast and making smart decisions.

"It's very important to us that we develop learned and quality young women," said Lopez.

"My dad was a rugby coach and I just wanted to play," added Reid, who moved to the USA with her family when she was 12. "I wasn't really nervous about starting a team - more excited than anything else. We played in games when we didn't have any subs, and when we lost a player we just played down. Now we have a lot of players and we just kept getting better and better."

Lina Hart, who plays scrumhalf to Reid's flyhalf, was also a key member of the team and another one who has been there since the beginning. She put much of the performance on the forwards.

"We have some great backs and the forwards know they want to get them the ball," she said. "They just play for each other and just kept playing hard and working hard so we could all play rugby. We're still a new program, but we're getting more recruits because we love it."

Hart was player of the game in two of the three NIT matches, and is weighing offers from colleges. Reid, who is going to UC Davis, also graduates this year.

The key to the team's success was quick ball from the breakdown. That's what Hart meant when she talked about the forwards. 

"No one could compete with our speed of the ball," said Lopez. "We would make a break, recycle, and get the ball out before they had set their defense. It made for a free-flowing game for us."

Meanwhile, center Teigan MacDonald led the team with ten tries and while a late-comer to the game of rugby, she brought athleticism and aggressive running to the team. Senior lock Alex Monks anchored the forward effort and made a huge try-saving tackle in the final.

Pleasanton's emergence highlights the power of the Nothern California league, which produced NIT runners up Sacramento Amazons, as well as Danville, Dixon, Lancers, Sierra Foothills, and Bishop O'Dowd, all storng teams. Still, a young program just starting out managed to do pretty well, and vaulted itself into the conversation of the top teams in the nation.