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City Honors Leads Upstate NY

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City Honors Leads Upstate NY

City Honors (with ball) and Kenmore kicked off the season with a thriller. (Photo: Dave Bellnier)

Within days of the snow finally melting from their frozen pitches, the teams in the Western New York (WNY) girls high school division began their competitive seasons. The top two teams from the region will take the 3rd and 4th seeds at the state championship on June 6-7, and City Honors is making an early bid for one of those spots.

There are seven teams competing in WNY (also known as the "Upstate" division within Rugby NY) from the Buffalo and Rochester areas. Several of the participating clubs are closely affiliated with their local high schools, but City Honors draws exclusively from City Honors High School, a magnet school for academically gifted and talented students living in the city of Buffalo. The rugby team proved equally as gifted, as it took down pre-season favorite and reigning champ Kenmore 7-5 in the league-opener.

Kenmore is the largest club in the league (53 CIPP’d players) and will attend the DII national championship in Pittsburgh, May 16-17. The Buffalo Northtowns-based squad is led by ball-hungry flanker Sholome Geldres, as well as sophomore halfbacks Ellie Fumerelle and Hannah Emminger. But a stingy City Honors defense was able to contain much of Kenmore’s attack. Fullback Graceanne Brown was great on both sides of the ball, running hard and swallowing up breakaways. Equally as impressive, Makayla Patton – younger sister to DI American International College captain Muneera Patton – showcased her power and skill in the backs. A fantastic battle evolved, and a conversion was the difference in the 7-5 win for City Honors.

City Honors improved to 2-0 last weekend, defeating Hamburg 17-0. One of three Buffalo Southtowns teams, Hamburg was the only team to beat Kenmore in 2014 and has advanced to the state playoffs the previous three years. The team is blessed with six Western New York All-Stars members; however, wing Amanda Lenau, the fastest player in the league, suffered a season-ending dislocated shoulder.

Kenmore bounced back from its opening weekend loss with a 29-12 victory over Orchard Park in the second week of play. But don’t overlook the Southtowns side. Orchard Park is slowly realizing the benefits of its flag rugby program, and freshman Emily Henrich is an example of such. Henrich, who scored four tries against West Seneca in week one, was last seen in Las Vegas playing for Atlantis’ first-ever U16 girls team. She was unavailable for the Kenmore match (she was attending an international academic competition in Florida) and was missed.

Despite some good competition, the number of girls’ teams in this division has decreased in recent years; three have folded in the previous five years due, in part, to a lack of coaches. But that hasn’t stopped driven players from continuing their rugby careers at the next level. While many alumni continue to play at regional SUNY schools, players like Muneera Patton and Orchard Park graduate Courtney Sullivan are competing at DI varsity programs. Sullivan is a freshman at Norwich, arguably a top-three team in the country, and is now captaining the freshmen 7s team.

The season is in its infancy, and more surprises surely await. Stay tuned as the division whittles down its candidates for state playoffs.