Lady Barbos Barreling Forward
Lady Barbos Barreling Forward
If you think the Valley Panthers are eager for a rematch against Oregon state champion Grant (read more), then meet Beaverton, which lost to the Generals in last year’s title match. After very successful summer and fall 7s seasons, the Lady Barbarians were feeling good about 2015’s potential, but the year did not start as auspiciously as expected.
“Our tournament, Prezfest, is always our first of the year, and we usually go undefeated,” Lady Barbarians coach Greg Tracy explained. “We didn’t win a single game. Then we played another pre-season tournament, competing against DI and DII teams, and got lucky with one tie. We spread the playing time around at those tournaments, but we also explained that we didn’t expect to lose.”
Baffled and frustrated, Tracy and staff sat down with the team, and they talked it out.
“There were some attitude issues – people playing for themselves instead of the team,” Tracy said. “We have 17, 18 seasoned players and another 10 who are in the learning process. It was tough for the new girls to understand what it is to play on our team. So the captains took them aside and explained it.”
Senior captains Emily Acuna and Laykayla Gillaspie reiterated the family nature of a rugby team, and once everything was out in the open, the Lady Barbarians started competing as a unit. That change in mentality coincided with some positional moves. Jessica Gomez had been playing for three years, but it wasn’t until she embraced the move to hooker that she started excelling in every aspect of the game. Junior Abi White spent two years searching for a place to make a difference, and found it this season at flanker.
“She’s not afraid of anything,” Tracy said. “So it’s been about finding a spot where players excel, versus them just going through the motions.”
The revelations occurred just in time. Rugby Oregon structured its league schedule with the toughest matches (the DI games) in the beginning half of the season, so the team was short on time.
“Once we had our team bonding, the attitude was different,” Tracy said. “We spent those first four weeks developing new players and game play, and we haven’t lost a game since – except against Grant.”
Beaverton lost 31-24 to Grant and played a tough game against Valley Panthers, winning 28-21. The senior captains kept the team pointed in the right directions, while the inspiring play of junior Lauren Garrison and sophomore Nini Kalamafoni helped the team to a 7-1 record and second-place finish in the standings.
But while the Lady Barbarians are feeling confident about the post-season, it’s been an anti-climatic build-up to the playoffs. The second half of the regular season saw crossover matches between the DI and DII teams – a set-up that favors the developing DII sides, which are allowed to play each other during the first four weeks of the season, and then field improved sides against the DI teams.
“It’s hard because now we’re trying to develop to where we can play a certain style against those tougher DI teams,” Tracy reflected on the previous month of DII games. “I’m not sure what it’s going to look like when we play higher competition. All of us [Grant, Valley Panthers, Beaverton] have strolled through the last 3-4 weeks, and the fourth team – North Clackamas – wasn’t decided until last week.”
Beaverton plays the Valley Panthers on Saturday during the state semifinals. Tracy and Panthers head coach Jeremy Moore are familiar with each other's squads and share a good working relationship.
“When Jeremy took over, Valley made an immediate turnaround,” Tracy said. “I thought, ‘This is the guy who is going to bring them up.’ He’s done an excellent job and brought the team from the bottom of DII to the top of DI.”
The victor will play the winner of Grant vs. North Clackamas in the state final on May 16.
“We focus on one week at a time,” Tracy said. “We play teams like it’s 0-0 every time – go hard early, and then make changes if we need to. It’ll be a tough game, and I’m excited.”