Grant Ready to Defend State Title
Grant Ready to Defend State Title
The stage is set. Oregon will replay last year’s girls high school state final, pitting Grant and Beaverton against each other. The reigning champ defeated North Clackamas 90-10 in yesterday’s semifinal, while the Lady Barbarians eliminated Valley Panthers 50-22 for a final’s berth.
“North Clackamas is a pretty good team, and the score doesn’t reflect their level of talent,” Grant coach Val Burns said. “They have some hard hitters who identified some weaknesses in our game and deserve the necessary props.”
Grant scored three quick tries before North Clackamas got on the board, but from that point on, the Generals controlled the match.
“Our problem is not attack,” Burns said. “It’s more about getting our defense structured and holding ourselves as accountable as we do on offense. We’ve been working on it for a while, but we’ll focus on tackling big bodies, line defense, and rucking during the upcoming week.”
Burns credited several of the team’s role players for stepping up in Saturday’s game, including prop Kayla Fantz-Sands, who scored her first try in a playoff game, and hooker Jen Sipoloa, who also contributed two scores. The A’aus (sophomores Tiara at prop and Tiana as loose forward, and junior Sui at outside center) put in their typically strong performances, and the twins are starting to grow into leadership positions.
A couple of newcomers took to the post-season, too. When McKenna Davis transitioned from flyhalf to fullback, freshman Ruby Long got a look at the 10 spot. The 14-year-old is a product of Rugby Oregon's focus on the 3rd-8th grade levels, and Long banked a year with junior high league coach San Juanita Moreno, a 15s Eagle, before joining Grant. Long impressed the staff, was performing well, and earned her minutes on the pitch.
Fellow freshman Charlotte Klein didn’t join Grant with previous playing experience, but she was exposed to the game through her older sister, Helena, a four-year flanker when she was with the Generals. Both are gifted defenders, and Charlotte did well at fullback while Davis nursed an injury.
Davis will be fit for the final against Beaverton, and combined with the calming influence of flanker Claire Gabris, Grant is ready to defend its title.
“Rivalries change every year,” Burns said to the team’s relationship with Beaverton. “Their dominance has been in existence way longer than ours; we only came onto the scene about two years ago. We talk about teams gunning for you after you win a state championship, trying to prove something, in both 7s and 15s. It’s a good kind of pressure, and I think they thrive under it.”
When Grant and Beaverton faced each other in the regular season, the Generals won 31-24. The teams both enjoyed close matches against Valley Panthers, but the previous month has been anti-climactic in that both sides have been playing DII teams during the crossover section of the season. Neither side has an advantage heading into the final, although the Lady Barbarians were better pushed in their game yesterday, and therefore had more opportunity to test their defense. But Grant has injected higher-level games into its season – including a good performance against Washington state champion Kent – and is competing in high gear.
“It should be a really good match in front of an awesome crowd,” Burns said of the May 16 final. “It’s going to be a good display of high school rugby – not only in Oregon but for any other state final.”