Winning a national championship is a team project, but that doesn’t mean individuals can’t stand out or excel in their roles. At last weekend’s USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship, USA 7s head coach Chris Brown highlighted Teigan MacDonald in that regard, naming the San Diego Surfer the championship MVP.
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MacDonald is a product of the Pleasanton Cavaliers (Calif.), where she played flyhalf and which contributes athletes to the highest levels of collegiate rugby every year. She enrolled at UC San Diego and played for the Titans, but then realigned with the Surfers for a big uptick in competition. MacDonald didn’t flinch in the Women’s Premier League, and was a prominent, physical wing for the national championship Surfers last season.
MacDonald at the 2018 WPL playoffs / Photo: Jackie Finlan
In 7s, MacDonald has the flexibility to be involved all over the field, and she takes advantage of that opportunity from the opening kickoff. Attention splits as Alena Olsen sends a nicely arcing dropkick to start the game, and racing beneath it is a mad-dashing MacDonald intent on the recovery.
“I actually started contesting restarts in high school during my very first year of rugby,” MacDonald got into her background. “We [the Surfers] were able to be extremely effective last year with them, mainly because of our kickers’ precision. I love to contest kickoffs because it puts the outcome within my control, whether it’s keeping possession or making a blitzing tackle. If I am able to push the tempo for my team on the restarts, then I’ve done my job!”
It’s one of MacDonald’s favorite aspects of the game and her lithe build doesn’t impact the pace at which she takes aerial contact.
“I really enjoy tackling as well,” MacDonald continued. “As a smaller player, it is a huge confidence boost to be able to tactically take someone down.”
Must be a team mindset, because San Diego doesn’t have size but they’re good in contact and some of the team’s best tacklers – Tia Blythe, Liz Trujillo – are its smallest.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic in Kansas City. San Diego won its first two pool games comfortably, and then the subsequent four games saw its opponent score first and/or take the lead into halftime. In each occasion, the Surfers were able to regroup, take over the lead, and hold on it.
“I don’t think we fully believed in our ability to come back until our third pool play game against Atlanta,” MacDonald recalled the Harlequins’ three-try first half. “After that game, we knew that we needed to hold on in the first half so that our fitness could show in the second. As we continued to advance, our grit grew and we wanted it more and more!”
On day two, San Diego followed its plan accordingly, either tying or staying within a try of its opponent the first half and then pulling away in the second. The Surfers eliminated Washington Athletic Club (26-19) from the title race in the Cup quarterfinals, Life West (19-14) in the semifinals, and Berkeley (21-12) in the final.
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“My favorite game of the weekend was the Life West game,” MacDonald explained. “I particularly enjoyed the competition from Life West on our kick receipts, which made me want to contest even more! I think our true colors finally showed during that game, and that we weren’t just a ‘small, fit team,’ but a tough one too.”
MacDonald also reunited with former Pleasanton teammate Emily Roskopf, who graduated from Quinnipiac University this year and now represents the Gladiatrix.
“The triumph really comes from everyone who was back in San Diego while we were in Kansas City,” MacDonald reflected on the overall victory. “We stressed a ‘21 Strong’ culture all summer, which meant that it took all 21 competitive side members – not just the 12 selected – to make it to where we are. I think that idea flows even broader to everyone who supports us from all sides of the Surfers: WPL, social season, and the Wetsuits! Our triumphs are program triumphs, which is why we want to continue our success even if it’s a different season.”
San Diego enjoys a bye week during the first round of this year’s Women’s Premier League, which kicks off this Saturday. MacDonald just graduated from UC San Diego in June but will remain in SoCal, representing the Surfers, while she pursues an MBA at UCSD’s business school.