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NE Leaders to Test Each Other

  • 13 Apr 2016
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Host Morris’ Tammy Cowan /// Photo: Diane Gutschmidt Ramage

 

In its inaugural year, the Northeast Invitational has brought seven of the region’s top high school teams together for a weekend of competitive games. Its genesis began with host Morris, which wanted better preparation leading into the high school club championships (May 21-22, Central Washington University). The East Coast teams rallied around that pursuit.

 

“The goal of the tournament is simple,” Morris coach and tournament director Tom Feury reported. “Provide new competition, quality competition, unique match-ups, and a fun, positive rugby experience for all attendees. Of course, when you assemble quality teams to play each other in mid-season, the results will also help sort out which teams are really excelling on the field.”

 

Attendees include Morris (N.J.), West End (Va.), Doylestown (Pa.), North Bay (Md.), Valkyries (North Penn, Pa.), Cobourg Institute (Ontario, Canada) and Play Rugby Academy (N.Y.).

 

Host Morris is excited to have its full squad playing together for the first time all season.

 

“This is actually the best team I have ever coached position to position, and we expect to finish the season strongly and present well at the [club] NIT,” Feury explained. “In previous years, we have relied on a few standouts, but this year we have more balance and depth.”

 

A handful players are back from the Atlanta 7s Festival having helped Atlantis to a High School Elite title. Watch for a quartet of seniors who are all heading to quality college programs in the fall: flanker Tammy Cowan (Kutztown, pictured), No. 8 Brianna Whitfield (AIC), captain and outside center Delia Hellander (Harvard) and fullback Tyffany Brisbane (Wheeling Jesuit). Junior scrumhalf and captain Jess Nagie is back to full strength and leads her class along with flanker Jordan Cowan.

 

Morris shares a friendly rivalry with West End, which is fielding two separate teams in Virginia’s DI varsity division. With so many players, coach Matt Estes has committed the Ruckettes to several additional fixtures outside of league, including Frostbite, the Northeast Invitational and Maryland Exiles’ invitational. West End is undefeated in matrix and tournament play so far.

 

Watch for inside center Kathleen Dzaran, who anchors a very talented back line. She’s a hard runner and excellent open-field tackler, as is fullback Maddie Moger. The three-time Virginia All Star is the keystone of the Ruckettes’ defense. Madison Deaton left the backline for flanker this year, and her nose for the ball is amplified by her hard tackling and carries. The surprise of the season has been hooker Jade Hawton-Durham. She’s new to the front row and injects size, strength and skill into the open field.

 

The wild card is Canada’s Cobourg Technical Institute, which finished second in the Central Ontario high school league last fall with a 9-2 record. Flanker Amara Hill and inside center Sammy Nadeau captain the team, which if it lives up to the typical Canadian standard, will supply very good competition.

 

The Play Rugby Academy is also poised to serve some defeats and drew attention after an early-season win over Morris and thumping of New York Rugby Club. The team draws players from the Play Rugby USA network and represents every borough of New York City. High School All American 7s player Gio Ferguson-Lewis is the most recognizable, as is Atlantis vet Malery Phillips-Billingy. And trust that Naomi Eduoard, Susan Adegoke, Lelyss Eligio and Tyhira Houston will make an impact as well.

 

North Bay has already experienced a range of success and defeat this season. After finishing second in its division at Frostbite, the Maryland side lost its league-opener to a very good West Carroll (which was originally slated to compete but dropped out due to numbers). North Bay recovered, is now 2-1, and looking to sustain that winning streak.

 

Senior captain and inside center Elisa Riviera is tasked with holding a very young, but extremely athletic back line together. Freshman flyhalf Alex Pipkin, freshman fullback Deanna Shrodes and junior wing Hailey Sacker have excelled thus far and are good scoring threats.

 

“The pack is anchored by senior forwards captain Adrianna Davids, who is having another outstanding year interchangeably working at flanker and No. 8,” North Bay coach Scott Hoffman informed. “Her intensity and passion feeds a slightly more experienced group that includes standouts like sophomore prop Hailey Thomas, sophomore No. 8 Sam Tancredi and senior lock Ali Nesbitt.”

 

Rounding out the lineup are two Pennsylvania teams: reigning state champion Valkyries (North Penn) and Doylestown. The former is a little lower in numbers this year, while the latter suffered some injuries during its tour of Scotland this spring. Both teams are 1-1 and still represent the upper tier of the state’s competition.

 

Games begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and resume 10 a.m. Sunday. The tournament will take place at Veterans Field on Zeek Rd. in Denville, N.J.

 

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