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Sam Houston Wins Texas

  • 30 Oct 2018

Photos: Rugby Ninja (view full album)

The Texas women’s college competition endured a bit of a shake-up this season, leaving the Lone Star conference for the Texas Rugby Union, and combining all 15s programs into Division I. The conference held its final four in Austin last weekend and a new champion was named: Sam Houston State, which defeated Texas A&M 61-14 in the final.

Jeremy Seligsohn graduated from assistant coach to head coach this fall and was heartened to see a few more bodies on the roster. Returning veterans Victoria Wheeler, Erin Ashley, Miranda Delamorena, Elizabeth Rhea and Ciarra Trentman-Rosas thrived in their roles as leaders and educated the first-years. As the team got into the regular season – defeating UT San Antonio 48-22, Texas State 97-5, Texas 72-0 – both the newcomers and the team as a whole grew their chemistry.

“Elena Garcia is our hooker and faster than some of our back line players,” Seligsohn praised the rookie. “She’s a hard-hitting, hard-rucking player who puts her body on the line for her team all the time. She’s very fit and makes her presence known on the field.

“[Ciarra] is a veteran but this is her first 15s season,” the coach referenced Trentman-Rosas’ 7s experience. “She’s our scrumhalf and has excelled in the position. She knows when to pick-and-go, and when to move it to the backs. She’s been great.”

Sam Houston was able to impose its game plan during the first three games of the season, and confronted its first test in round four.

“The only team that we were really looking at in a big way was A&M,” said Seligsohn, who noted a massive loss to the Aggies last year. “A&M is known for its sound rugby knowledge and ability to execute, and we knew that game would define our progress.”

There were five lead changes during that Oct. 13 match, and a closing-minute try from Samira Traore and Caitlynn Stone conversion sealed a 40-35 win for the Aggies.

“We lost that game, but we came out of it with a ton of confidence,” Seligsohn said. “We took that confidence into last weekend’s conference championship in Austin.”

In Saturday’s semifinals, Texas A&M defeated North Texas 68-19, and Sam Houston State defeated Angelo State 61-12 to set up a rematch in the conference championship. The Huntsville team got lucky with no injuries and leaned on its intel to tweak its game plan against the Aggies.

“We knew their strong players. One through eight is really good, they have a solid 9-10, but we knew they were weak on the edges,” Seligsohn said. “So we put our best tacklers in the forwards and used our back line to attack out wide.”

Inside center Ashley and outside center Christina Thomas scored during the opening 10 minutes, and flanker Wheeler added the first of three conversions. A&M inside center T’yara Blades scored the first of two tries, Stone converted, for the 14-7 scoreline after 30 minutes. Sam Houston closed out the half with tries from fullback Rhea, hooker Garcia and Wheeler for the 31-7 lead.

“Elena was rucking and counter-rucking the absolute crap out of everyone,” Seligsohn acknowledged those who flourished in their roles. “Our fullback, Liz, was running like a monster for someone her size, dodging and weaving, and solidifying our ability to run down the field. And our captain, Torie, was doing her quick-tap thing, working in the forwards and then running with the backs to attack the edges.”

The team didn’t indulge in the bliss of a big lead, but once flyhalf Delamorena, Garcia and Ashley scored within minutes of each other in the second half, coach Seligsohn eased off. Ashley, Delamorena and Rhea scored before game’s end for the 61-14 win.

“I did not expect it. I thought it’d be five points difference, in our favor,” Seligsohn compared expectations with reality. “I had no idea that the team could put on a clinic against a team as good as A&M. … After those two wins, their confidence is up. They’re not in their heads anymore and realize they can do their jobs and be pretty good at it.”

Sam Houston State will compete in the USA Rugby DI College Fall Championship, which begins with a quarterfinal/semifinal weekend Nov. 17-18. Even though the DI bracket has not been released, the Texans will head to Columbia, Mo., most likely alongside Rocky Mountain’s Air Force and the Midwest’s University of Minnesota, and a fourth team.

“Looking back at the first day or practice, it’s been an uphill battle getting everyone to just know what rugby is,” Seligsohn said. “But it’s been amazing to see as a first-year head coach. They went from individuals who came from all these other sports to a team that knows every aspect of rugby. They’re humble, they work hard, and they show up every Saturday. It’s amazing to see these girls transform into rugby players and go up against any team and compete.”

Stay tuned for more playoff information as it becomes available.

#SamHouston Texas

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