The last few years, Minnesota Youth Rugby (MYR) has adapted its competition formats to account for the fluctuation in numbers among girls’ high school teams. Last year, 7s and 10s leagues ran concurrently during the spring, and 2019 saw the return of a 15s league, which ran alongside the 7s competition. Whatever the adjustments, Hopkins continues to find a way to win and celebrated a third-straight title last weekend.
Despite the trophy streak, the 15s title was no easy task this spring. Hopkins was light on numbers with 19 players, and relied on its six seniors to set the standard of play.
“We had eight freshmen this year that were able to develop their skills quickly and step up to fill out our lineup,” Hopkins head coach April White looked toward the future of the program.
The combination of newcomers and veterans came together for four-straight league wins, before a 22-15 loss to “NorthStrong,” a combination of two former state champions in North Suburban and Armstrong. Seniors DeMeshe` Baker and Haley Andreasen stood out as the team’s best finishers, combining for 27 tries to lead the squad.
“However, our most valuable player – as voted by the girls, to which I would agree – is junior Abbey Terpstra,” White noted the third-highest try-scorer (12). “[She] will definitely be a player to watch next year and beyond.”
The top-four teams advanced to May 22 playoffs, which pit #2 Hopkins against #3 Minnetonka, and #1 NorthStrong against #4 East Metro-Southside. Hopkins booked its spot in the final with a 26-5 victory, while the other side of the bracket brought some drama to the post-season.
“East Metro-Southside beat NorthStrong in an upset at the semifinal game. I knew [East Metro-Southside] was not going to be the same team we came up against in our very first game of the season,” White reflected. “They were missing some key players for that first game and had grown throughout the season. I knew they were going to give us a fight.”
Hopkins had defeated East Metro-Southside 42-7 on April 5, but it was clear that the competition had narrowed after a month and a half of play. The girls’ 15s championship was part of an extensive MYR showcase, which took place on June 1 at TCO Stadium, the NFL Vikings’ practice facility in Eagan.
“Hopkins started the game a little more timid in certain aspects of the game than I am used to seeing them play, but was still able to take the lead early on,” White recounted.
Baker, Andreasen and Faith Agboola dotted down tries for a 15-10 halftime edge.
“East Metro came off halftime hungry,” the coach continued. “They scored the next three tries, which put us down by 10 with limited time left in the game.”
Hopkins didn’t bend under the pressure and team MVP Terpstra scored to close on the deficit, 25-20. Then with three minutes on the clock, Baker took the corner for a 60-meter sprint and try, tying the game, and then Terpstra calmly slotted the extras for the 27-25 scoreline. Hopkins held on for the remainder of the match to win its third-straight title.
“I felt like the team really worked together in the final game,” White highlighted the collective effort and four try-scorers. “We did not name an MVP on the game. We usually award a ‘wolf hat’ for our player of the match who was ‘hungry like the wolf,’ but in the excitement we just enjoyed the win together.”
But like all good teams, the work continues. The team is back on the training pitch assessing its performance from last weekend and considering improvements for the summer 7s season. The program is also sending players into the collegiate leagues this fall, Haley Andreasen has signed with varsity program West Chester University in Pennsylvania; Emma Andreasen heads to DI Rocky Mountain’s University of Colorado in Boulder; and Maizy Salo will boot up with DII Great Waters’ UW Eau Claire.
Additional playing opportunities may be available with the MYR all-star team coached by Libby Berg. The team is still in formation and should be competing at the Regional Cup Tournament in Cottage Grove, Wisc. – one of the main talent identification venues utilized by collegiate recruiters and USA age-grade selectors. More to come.
“I am very proud of my girls and what we accomplished as a team this season, but I don’t want it to end here,” White concluded. “This has been a very rewarding first season of coaching and I cannot wait for the 2020 season.”