Charity Tenney (ball) and Kat Stowers (left), seen here at the LVI, have joined United from Orem. /// Photo: Jackie Finlan
It’s difficult to see the positivity in teams folding, but for Utah Youth Rugby (UYR), it could be a boon. Repeat state 7s and 15s champion Orem as well as the Vipers (formerly Lowland, a founding team in the league) disbanded this spring. But the total number of registered players withing the girls’ league has not dropped, as athletes realigned with existing teams and strengthened rosters.
“I think it will be good for the stability of the league,” said Matt Kanenwisher, UYR Girls High School Commissioner and United coach. “In general we look at growth in terms of number of teams, but fewer teams with more players and full B sides will eventually allow more growth. There will be more parity in the league.”
Watch for United, Herriman and Kau Toa to challenge each other this year. Kanenwisher’s program absorbed much of Orem’s backline, including four enrolled with the Utah Lions Rugby Academy. Former Lady Stallions Kat Stowers, Charity Tenney, Addilyn Sorrensen and Lewanda Aspinall worked alongside current United playermakers McKay Peisley and Seini Ieremia during the LVI 7s, where the Lions finished third in the U18 Elite division.
Addie Horsley and Peyton Frazier were also in Las Vegas impressing onlookers. The former is only a sophomore and has been starting No. 8 for the previous three years. She’s a great leader and links up well with flyhalf Ieremia. Like Horsley, Frazier was a highlight for the Utah Cannibals and nearly uncatchable with a little space ahead of her. Kanenwisher was also happy to add junior Cheyenne Nielson, a strong prop who relocated from Idaho.
“We’ve got 36 girls out this year, a full B side scheduled against other B sides, and more games and playing time in general,” Kanenwisher said. “One of the neat things is you end up with a situation where, instead of the traditional player selection of, ‘This person looks like a prop. This person looks like a flanker,’ you can just put the 15 most athletic players on the field and see what kind of game evolves.”
A fast game has been evolving. The team is looking to keep the ball alive and not overcommit at the rucks. United wants to playing a lot of running rugby and will be focusing on fitness to get there.
Herriman likes that game as well. The state runner-up is always good, and it has several players upping their game with the Utah Lions: Stephanie Hickman, Alexandria Sedrick, Chanmoneca Ngin and Delaney Rakuita. Kao Toa is in its third year and has former Orem coach Jeremiah Tiatia at the helm. He’s been involved at the all-star level and is a great leader who build the competitiveness of the young team.
This weekend sees the first league matches, but United – and Herriman – is looking forward to a friendly against visiting Danville in early April.
“Danville will test our optimism,” Kanenwisher said of the pre-season excitement that’s been building. “If we can compete with them this year, at any level, then that will measure how we’re doing with this young group. We don’t even know what we have yet or how competitive we can be, but we want to create a structure around it.”
Depending on how this season goes, United will look at club nationals in 2017.
United takes on Snow Canyon this Saturday, while Herriman plays Thunder Rugby, and Kao Toa gets the forfeit win against the Vipers. Stay tuned to what should be an interesting season.