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Baby Birds Soar in Florida

  • 20 Feb 2019

Photo: Christine Cancian

The Midwest High School Thunderbirds celebrated another successful winter tour to Florida, blooding new talent in three challenging games and building chemistry among the Ireland tour-goers. The trip was also significant in that an extended squad – 35 players – traveled south, extending the all-star experience deeper into the Midwest player pool.

“We don’t really focus on that,” Midwest High School Thunderbirds head coach Garrett Fisher said of being undefeated in Florida for four years. “It’s more about growth opportunities and great experiences, and getting the players some exposure, whether they’re looking to play in college or with All-Americans.”

Decked out in their International Try Zone-sponsored kit, the Baby Birds opened tour on Friday night to face the Florida All-Stars, comprised by Palm Beach County players and organized by Burt Wantlin. Fisher played his younger or newer players under the lights.

“The Florida All-Stars were faster and more physical than we expected. They really improved in the last year,” Fisher said.

Photo: Christine Cancian

Abby Terpstra of Hopkins, Minn., stood out during the 24-5 win.

“She has improved tremendously since the summer and in our one-on-one meeting I told her how we’ve noticed how much she’s grown as a person and player,” Fisher praised. “She jumped out at us. She plays wing for us but plays a lot of flyhalf-center at her home club in Hopkins.”

The Friday players served as substitutes for Saturday’s game against the USA South, which fielded a U20 squad by request. That expansion allowed for some collegiate players to represent the Panthers and they intensified the level of play. The team is led by Chris Martin, an in-demand coach who also leads the South’s collegiate and senior all-stars as well as Lee University’s teams.

Photo: Christine Cancian

“USA South were very good with ball retention. I don’t believe we had really any clean poaches or steals in the game. They contested the breakdown well, and were fast and physical,” Fisher reviewed the Panthers’ game. “The offensive system wasn’t overly expansive but was very successful. They concentrated on the centers and forwards moving hard and fast, and really tested our one-man, one-tackle defense.”

The Midwest responded well as the South retained possession in the visitor’s end for the opening 15 minutes. Seven of those minutes were inside the Midwest’s 22, but the defense held, got a turnover and cleared.

“Defensive standouts came from players we were expecting it from,” Fisher said. “Libby Moser is a very physical loosehead prop. Gina Pollice from Michigan at 15 didn’t let anyone by her and did a good job communicating to the line in front of her.”

Photo: Christine Cancian

Midwest won 43-27, and then readied for the Sunday rematch. The Thunderbirds mixed the squad with young players and Ireland-bound players.

“We adjusted to each other. USA South had a great game plan and trusted their system. They came out fast,” Fisher said. “We went out front first, and then they stormed back to the take the lead. It was back and forth. And then the game ended with us holding them up in the try zone to seal the 22-17 victory.

“Anna Walters from Hudson, Ohio, had a really great weekend,” the coach said of overall standouts. “We moved her to openside [flanker] and she responded great. She had attended 4-5 [Midwest] camps, and since the last time I saw her in the summer, she’s really shown a lot of progression. She’s faster, stronger, physical, moves forward well on offense and defense. She’s only a sophomore and we’ll definitely keep an eye on her.”

Photo: Christine Cancian

Fisher indicated that he’d love to continue this relationship with the USA South and hopes the all-star program roots itself for future 15s fixtures. The Panthers provided the team’s best competition on the winter tour thus far, and it allowed Fisher to honestly evaluate players as he looks to fill two vacancies on the Ireland touring squad.

“The bonding and the team atmosphere really grew, and that’s what we wanted going into Ireland so we didn’t have to establish chemistry over there,” Fisher said.

ITZ and Mark Andrade will again outfit the team abroad, and he’s one of several supporters whom Fisher thanked in making the Thunderbird program successful. Midwest Youth Director Bob Cronquist is also high on the “thank you” list, and the two will cross paths during the Midwest all-star tournament in Elkhart, Ind., this summer, as Fisher hits the recruitment trail. He also hopes to attend player clinics in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Iowa, and send invites to the annual trial camp July 18-21. The Ireland players won’t be there, but Fisher wants to identify the 2020 player pool.

Photo: Christine Cancian

For more information, contact coach Fisher at


Becca Anselmen – Iowa

Aubrey Boing – Ohio

Molly Cancian – Ohio

Haley Crow – Wisconsin

Ava Denner – Iowa

Taylor Driver – Indiana

Alle English Ohio (c)

Abby Farmer – Illinois

Anna Hensel – Indiana

Grace Hoch – Ohio

Kayla Hoch – New York

Alex Hyde – Michigan

Lauren Knoblauch – Ohio

Gwen Knutson – Wisconsin

Hannah Koorndyk – Michigan

Cici Loew – Michigan

Jada Morris – Iowa

Libby Moser – Indiana (c)

Delany Moyer – Indiana (c)

Angelina Pieters – Wisconsin

Kate Pofok – Ohio

Gina Pollice – Michigan (c)

Emily Rahja – Ohio

Zoe Ramirez – Ohio

Reece Regan – Ohio

Hanna Sarber – Michigan

Abby Terpstra – Minnesota

Erin Terwilliger New York

Makenna Tuman – Pennsylvania 

Jayla Twitty – Ohio

Anna Walters – Ohio

Erin Ward – Ohio

Maggie Wetter – Ohio

Meg Wright – Wisconsin

Allexus Zielinski – Ohio 


Garrett Fisher, Head Coach

John English, Attack Coach

Kinsey Branyt-Lees, Forwards Coach

Hannah Roodhouse, Forwards Coach

Stephanie Bowers, Backs Coach

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