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MVP Hann Leads Freshman Showcase

  • 08 Mar 2021

Tessa Hann against GCU

Central Washington University (CWU) traveled to Arizona to play Grand Canyon University (GCU) last Saturday, and the non-league game allowed both sides to work their big freshman classes. Between the two teams, there were 17 first-years on the pitch when the game kicked off, and that experience will go a long way.

Central Washington did dominate and plunked down a 127-0 win. Three freshmen now lead the Wildcats in points scored: Kai Brandt-Templeton converted 16 of 19 conversions for a season total of 36 points; fullback Sammy Stern has scored six tries overall for 30 points; and Saturday’s MVP, Tessa Hann, has dotted down five tries this spring for 25 points.

“She was absolutely everywhere; making tackles from sideline to sideline, stealing balls at the breakdown and of course scoring 4 tries [Saturday],” CWU head coach Trevor Richards told “Tessa is only a freshman and so she is unquestionably going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years.”

(l-r) A. Namosimalua, Kei Mae Sagapolu, MJ Pasioles

Hann’s dad was a rugby coach, and so the Colorado family grew up around the sport. But it wasn’t until her older sister – Carson, who is a senior at NIRA DI Quinnipiac University – started playing rugby in high school that Tessa considered booting up. The duo aligned with Westside SWARM, which would evolve into Arapahoe Warriors, both of which were coached by Darryl Lane.

“I fell in love it with it,” said Hann, who started playing as an 8th grader. “I had played some basketball and soccer but I really liked the culture of rugby and stuck with that.”

Colorado contests a 7s season and championship for its high school girls, and Hann started sampling the next level of competition through the Rocky Mountain Rebels and later Rugby Colorado all-stars. In December 2018, Hann attended the Girls High School All-American (now “USA U18”) camp in Chula Vista, Calif., and saw a rugby future beyond high school.

Maddie Hadden with Arapahoe in October 2018 / Photo: Jackie Finlan / TRB

“From there, I thought, ‘Maybe I could actually play in college,’” Hann recalled. “And opportunities opened up from there.”

Former high school teammate Maddie Hadden committed to Central Washington University in fall 2019, and her feedback influenced Hann.

“I played with her on SWARM beginning in 8th grade and then with Arapahoe,” Hann said of the current CWU sophomore. “I really looked up to her and when she came here, she shared her experience as a Wildcat. Then I toured here and with her mentions, I knew Central was right for me.”

Like Hadden, Hann joined CWU with little 15s experience. High school girls play 7s in Colorado, and although Rugby Colorado re-introduced 15s, the all-star team really only played in the June Regional Cup Tournament.

Soph. Kawai Akina breaks through

“My first 15s was at Chula Vista two years ago, and I didn’t even play 15s there. I played in the 7s squad,” Hann said. “My first real 15s game was with Rugby Colorado and Jamie Burke. I also played 15s with 5785 with Amy [Rusert].

“So, yes, to some extent, I was nervous coming in the first quarter since I didn’t have much 15s experience,” the forward continued. “There was no contact the first quarter so we went over game structure and set pieces, so that helped me gain a lot of knowledge and confidence toward 15s. I learned more about my position and how it’s play, so then when we went into contact, it really clicked all together. We went piece by piece by piece and then it flowed together really well.”

Hann explained that even though the team had its constraints at the beginning of the school year, the squad did not lack intensity in any of its pursuits.

Pasioles moves the ball

“Their dedication and energy,” Hann recounted first impressions of the squad. “It was a huge, dramatic difference from high school, obviously. Everyone was always there ready to go and it didn’t matter if it was a 7 a.m. lift or practice or game play – the energy was always high. The upperclassmen were such great examples and kept the internal competition within the team alive. It’s, ‘Work for your spot and just always give 100%.’”

CWU opened up its DI Elite / DIA season against BYU on Feb. 27, and Hann was one of six freshmen on the starting roster.

“Definitely a mix of anxiety and excitement,” Hann said of her mindset heading into BYU. “There was a lot of pressure on me but I was really excited to play with those around me. There are players that I look up to – that the whole team looks up to – and playing with them is exciting as is. And just being able to play again – we had a whole year off – was exciting. But I was nervous starting as a freshman.

Sammy Stern has scored six tries in two games.

“The game speed,” Hann, who played lock against the Cougars, said of notable differences from games past. “How fast we were able to move the ball sideline to sideline, and earning that as well. We set up our structure, and went through it as forwards, and the backs were able to distribute it wide. I was not used to that. Playing in high school, there are a lot more mistakes and slower play.”

CWU ended up winning 43-13 and Hann scored a second-half try to kick off her collegiate career.

The Wildcats followed with the non-league game against GCU, which is eying the DI Elite / DIA in the next couple of years. Between the two squads, there were 17 freshmen on the starting roster.

Hann praised GCU’s strong runners and rucking game.

“Going into the GCU game, we had three goals: Maintain our structure, depth and support,” Hann said. “We fulfilled these goals. We went sideline to sideline and put pressure on them defensively. We poached the ball and after the turnover we were able to maintain structure and form our pods and focus on getting the ball through the hands.”

Hann, who played flanker in an all-freshmen back row, praised GCU’s strong runners, and its solid rucking game tested the Wildcats’ physicality. Ultimately, the visitors dominated the match and ran in 19 tries. The MVP showed her range as she scored four times, from returning a kickoff for a long-range try, to reigning in an overthrown lineout and going 20 meters through traffic.

With Stern’s three tries and Brandt-Templeton’s 16 conversions, the three first-years (including Hann) top the league’s leaderboard on points scored. Hadden (2), captain Mikayla Roberts (2), Heaven Bruce (2), Georgia Budd (2), Aly Namosimalua (2), Keia Mae Sagapolu and Spencer Boldt also scored. [Note: Non-league games are counted in the stats but JV games are not included.]

Freshman Kai Brandt-Templeton kicked 32 points against GCU.

“Heaven Bruce really impressed me. She had some amazing runs,” Hann said of memorable performances. “Same with Keia Mae Sagapolu and captain Mikayla Roberts. They scored right off the bat and brought that energy immediately into the game.”

Hann indicated that head coach Trevor Richards had been looking for discipline in structure and defensive launch, and she felt the team executed well on those two asks.

“I’m just hoping that we start off with the same energy and intensity like we did against GCU – and maintain support,” Hann looked toward this weekend’s rematch against BYU in Utah. “We broke through GCU’s lines but we also had multiple players supporting each other and that goes a long way, especially against BYU, which has physical players that can get in the ruck and poach the ball. If we can support the person next us, then that will a huge asset against BYU. That, and just go 100% the whole time.”

The CWU vs. BYU rematch will live-stream from Provo, Utah, on Saturday, March 13 at 12 p.m. MST on

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