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MW Baby Birds Fly to Ireland

  • 07 Sep 2018
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HS Thunderbirds July camp attendees

The Midwest High School Thunderbirds have been named for the upcoming calendar year, and 2019 promises to be especially memorable as the regional all-star team readies for a return trip to Florida and then an international tour.

“Midwest Youth Rugby decided to go all-in on a trip to Ireland next summer,” said Midwest High School Thunderbird head coach Garrett Fisher, who has already started working with Irish Rugby Tours. “We’re very excited. The whole plan behind that is the continued struggle to find competition for these players. We want higher-level games for their personal development, and you can’t count on finding matches on home soil. We were very lucky when the Ontario side came down, but otherwise it’s been a struggle.”

Fisher spent the previous year scouting the Midwest, but coaches and individuals are meeting the staff midway in terms of identifying talent.

“More and more coaches are reaching out to us, asking when we’re holding camps and what events we’ll be at,” Fisher said. “They are happy with what we are doing, and we always stress to the coaches that we’re happy they support the program. They’re getting teams to more events – Michigan, for example, put together an LAU select side because they wanted to get their players seen.”

College coaches have taken notice, too. When they can’t attend the summer camp in person, reps from Dartmouth, Harvard, Lindenwood, Bowdoin and more consistently request footage of the games and scrimmages.

“That’s also been a main goal of the program,” Fisher said of collegiate interest. “And it makes me happy that top-level schools respect what we’re doing and are taking advantage of it.”

Approximately 45 players were invited to the July camp, and after five days, a roster of 25 (see below) emerged for the 2019 fixtures. One of Fisher’s favorite aspects of camp is discovering talent, like Alle English, who grew up around rugby due to her father’s long career in the sport. English always trained alongside her father’s team but didn’t play 15s until earlier this year when selected to the T-Birds.

“Many of the selections are coming from major programs across the Midwest: DSHA, Catholic [Memorial], Grandville, St. Joseph, [Iowa] Hawkettes, North Central,” said Fisher, who noted the absence of Illinois and Minnesota reps. “It’s not that you can’t play great rugby on a lower-level program, but it just shows what a great job these coaches are doing at the grassroots level and how it’s the most important step of a player’s development. Those teams are really leading the charge and their players are rising to the top – not only selected to the Thunderbirds but the High School All-Americans, too. That really stood out to me.”

Fisher would like to take 30 players to Ireland, and so the head coach is looking for another five players to head overseas next August. He indicated that those athletes could come out of the July camp roster or emerge from satellite camps, like the October 20 event in Indianapolis. Fisher hopes to set up camps in Wisconsin, Chicago, Michigan, and potentially more.

The team is also heading to Florida in winter 2019 to hopefully play a USA Rugby South U20 squad. Conversations, facilitated by Mike Geibel, have just begun, so more details to come as they’re solidified. There will be opportunity for additional players to make the trip to Florida, since it’s not mandatory for Ireland-bound players to attend, just in case the financial demands are too high.

MIDWEST HS THUNDERBIRDS

IRELAND 2019 ROSTER*

Aubrey Boing – Brunswick (OH)

Haley Crow – Catholic Memorial (WI)

Aly Cunningham – Catholic Memorial (WI)

Taylor Driver – North Central (IN)

Alle English – Ohio

Anna Hensel – North Central (IN)

Alexandra Hyde – Sparta Rock (MI)

Sydney Julich – Ankeny (IA)

Abby Kayser – Divine Savior Holy Angels (WI)

Jenna Klenz – Divine Savior Holy Angels (WI)

Gwen Knutson – Brookfield (WI)

Natalie Locke – Warsaw (IN)

Libby Moser – North Central (IN)

Delaney Moyer – Brownsburg (IN)

Addy Ochoa – Grandville (MI)

Savannah Peterson– Divine Savior Holy Angels (WI)

Angelina Pollice – Grandville (MI)

Emily Rahja – Mentor (OH)

Jourdan Readence – Brunswick (OH)

Megan Reed – Westfield (IN)

Jayla Twitty – Walnut Hills (OH)

Erin Ward – St. Joseph (OH)

Meg Wright – Catholic Memorial (WI)

Mackenzie Youngblood – Divine Savior Holy Angels (WI)

Allexus Zielinski – St. Joseph (OH)

* 5 more players to be named

MidwestThunderbirds

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