Kayla Canett returns to the Atavus All-Stars /// Photo: Atavus
The Atavus All-Stars have been training at Rutgers University since Tuesday and will end their time together with a Saturday match against the touring British Army. Women’s Junior All-American (WJAA) head coach Wil Snape has been leading the assembly, while coaches James English and Katie Dowty assist. The 22 players were chosen from both the Atavus network (All-Stars, academies, camps) and WJAA pipeline. [Read Atavus’ press release]
The select side is diverse, bringing high school through Women’s Premier League (WPL) players together. On the young end, there are three graduating high school seniors who have all committed to elite college rugby programs. Kayla Canett (Fallbrook High School/Penn State) is an Atavus All-Star and Girls High School All American (GHSAA) alumna. Gio Ferguson-Lewis (Play Rugby Academy/Army West Point) has represented the GHSAA 7s and Taylor Makowski (Northside Dragons/Life University) the GHSAA 15s team.
Canett is in the 2016 USA age-grade pool along with eight other Atavus All-Star collegians who boast a range of representative play: Ashlee Byrge (Davenport), Sheila Decker (Norwich), McKenzie Hawkins (Lindenwood), Kayla Hunkin-Clark (AIC), Maya Learned (Harvard), Azniv Nalbandian (Penn State), Kat Ramage (Dartmouth) and Abby Vogel (Cal). Making recent appearances on the national stage, Byrge was instrumental in helping the Panthers to DII national championships in 7s and 15s; freshman Hawkins competed in the DI Elite and aided the Lions to a runner-up finish at the DI 7s championship; and freshman Nalbandian was named MVP of the DI Elite final. Hawkins and Nalbandian will co-captain the squad.
Fellow college players include Scout Cheeks, who was a revelation at wing for Penn State; former All American Gio Cruz of Lindenwood; AIC’s big, strong, mobile forward Bridget Kahele; Morris product Melanie Marotta, who is now part of Marist College’s class of 2018; Dartmouth duo Danielle Lee Ramsay and Tatjana Toeldte, a freshman and senior, respectively; and Scranton’s Amy Verdonik, who’s seen time with the Northeast Academy.
And finally, there is a quartet of recent college graduates who will lead the young team against an international squad that beat the Capital Selects, a senior women’s club all-star team based in the Mid-Atlantic, last weekend. Brandywine’s Nicole Benedetti has been on the scene – whether through West Chester University, NOVA or Atlantis – for years. Ally Dykes, who was a Roger Williams star, is also a familiar entity and helped Little Rock into the DI post-season. Hawaii’s Fumie Reyes spent the second half of 2015 playing for the English Premiership’s Saracens, and she’ll inject a ton of power to the centers. And Penn State product Andrea Villanova transitioned to the WPL with New York, which Snape also coaches.
The game will kick off at 11 a.m. Eastern.
ATAVUS ALL-STARS vs. BRITISH ARMY
Saturday, June 4 • New Brunswick, N.J.
Nicole Benedetti – Brandywine Riot
Ashlee Byrge – Davenport University
Kayla Canett – Fallbrook High School
Scout Cheeks – Penn State University
Gionna Cruz – Lindenwood University
Sheila Decker – Norwich University
Allison Dykes – Little Rock
Gio Ferguson – Play Rugby Academy
McKenzie Hawkins – Lindenwood University
Kayla Hunkin-Clark – American International College
Bridget Kahele – American International College
Maya Learned – Harvard University
Taylor Makowski – Northside Dragons (CO)
Melanie Marotta – Marist College
Azniv Nalbandian – Penn State University
Katherine Ramage – Dartmouth College
Danielle Lee Ramsay – Dartmouth College
Fumie Reyes – Scion Sirens
Tatjana Toeldte – Dartmouth College
Amy Verdonik – University of Scranton
Andrea Villanova – New York Rugby Club
Abby Vogel – Cal