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Early Selection Gripes at Stars & Stripes

HS Girls

Early Selection Gripes at Stars & Stripes

The All Americans play games now, so invitation to Stars & Stripes is that more important. (Photo: Dave Barpal)

For the girls, the Stars & Stripes camp has taken on new meaning in its third year of existence. In 2013 and 2014, the assembly introduced the high performance lifestyle to the top high school talent, but it didn’t serve as a selection camp. In other words, a good showing at Stars & Stripes didn’t mean one would be considered for an upcoming Girls High School All Americans (GHSAA) match or tour; the program just wasn’t playing games yet.

That changed in 2015 when the GHSAA competed in the LVI 7s, the program’s first outing – and tournament victory. All of those players came from the Stars & Stripes or Youth Olympic Games squads, and the GHSAA – now under the guidance of new coach Farrah Douglas – will continue to compete, first with domestic competitions, and then on international tours.

Now, an invite to Stars & Stripes and a good performance in Greeley, Colo., could have a tangible reward. And higher stakes beget more tension over selections. USA Rugby will release the full 50-person roster shortly, but we checked in with Regional Cup Tournament (RCT) coaches for their confirmed attendees. Below is about half of the players who are traveling to the University of Northern Colorado next week, and the list is only a reflection of those coaches who responded to inquiries: and have culled a list of about half of the attendees. One notices the omission of some prominent players – like Fallbrook’s Lilly Durbin and Michel Navarro, and Maryville’s McKenzie Hawkins – but they are heading to the USA U20 selection camp on July 22-25 in Denver.

It’s impossible to comment on the attendees until the full list is released, but it’s apparent that coaches are confused about the selection process. When surveying coaches from the eight-team Mid-Atlantic RCT, for example, questions were raised as to why the tournament MVPs – Daz Williams and Sophie Pyrz – weren’t selected, despite USA Rugby selectors’ high praise.

“We speak to the girls over the course of the all-star season, and we love to stress teamwork and playing for a team championship, but we also let them know that they are there being watched individually and for a chance to play at the higher levels,” Pennsylvania all-star coach Tony DeRemer reported. “They also know that winning a championship usually gets you looked at more closely by the selectors. Unfortunately, and amazingly, that did not happen. I'm not criticizing the selectors here because I know that the selectors rated Sophie and Daz as top prospects, but I don’t know what happened after that!”

Clarification will come after the full list is released. Tensions have been further stressed over the inconsistent enforcement of eligibility requirements at the RCT, which were touted as the sole source for Stars & Stripes invites. There was one scenario in which freshmen – despite their proven capabilities – were prohibited from competing in the all-star tournament: if said tournament didn’t host a JV division. DeRemer rescinded his invite to Atlantis U16 star Maya Grassi because he was told there were no exceptions to the freshmen rule; Wisconsin’s Jeff Noe received permission to move up some JV sophomores to fill out his varsity side at the Midwest RCT; Orem, which won the West RCT, had a middle-schooler on the team.

There are several things wrong with the eligibility rule, but the immediate consequence is that certain players were prevented from competing in the RCT and therefore eliminated from the opportunity of the Stars & Stripes, which will be a major selection vehicle for upcoming GHSAA events.

Stay tuned as USA Rugby prepares its formal announcement of the upcoming assembly.

(updated: July 14, 2015 @ 2:49 p.m.)

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