The majority of girls’ high school 7s is played in the fall, and the competitions nationwide come in all forms. Some organizations keep it casual and emphasize participation; others run school district-supported leagues and name official state champions. A new 7s tournament is occurring this Friday-Saturday, Oct. 27-28 in Boise, Idaho, and its name reflects the focus and hope for future iterations: Girls’ High School 7s Championship.
The inaugural event is for single-school 7s and has attracted teams from Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and Washington. It’s been a bit of whirlwind, considering initial conversations began in July, but it’s happening, and tournament director Maurice Matsumori is already fielding calls from Hawaii, Northern California, Wisconsin and more for next year.
Matsumori learned rugby on the beaches of Kahuku while attending BYU Hawaii, and that appreciation of the sport is now shared by his family in Idaho. He’s an assistant coach with Idaho state 7s champion Rocky Mountain High School, and its club team is the reigning Rugby Idaho 15s champion. His speciality is strength and conditioning.
“This sport has opened my eyes to the power that people assume that the girls don’t have,” Matsumori said. “I’ve seen girls lift 300 lbs. I have seen girls hit and take down people I could have never imagined. … The primary thing is that I want the girls in high school to understand what they’re capable of.”
It was a Rocky Mountain player, Alyssa Hine, who planted the seed for what is now the Girls’ High School 7s Championship.
“We were talking at NAIs in July, and she said, ‘You need to talk to [Summit HS head coach] Karl Barth. He wants to see about coming up to Idaho for 7s game,'” Matsumori said. “Essentially, that’s what kicked it off. Then in mid-August, Karl asked if it was OK to bring up another high school team. And then all of a sudden I started getting calls. ‘Are you running a tournament up there?'”
It was a steep learning curve as Matsumori learned which fall 7s competitions were single-school, which were club, and what date made the most sense for everyone’s calendars. But those conversations were useful, as they unearthed a hunger for such an event. A little more advance planning, certain high-profile teams told Matsumori, and they’d be there in 2024.
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Twelve sides will compete in the inaugural tournament. Five are from Idaho and they’re the top-five-ranked teams in the state (in order): Rocky Mountain, Owyhee, Eagle, Mountain View and Meridian. These teams are school-district sponsored and just wrapped up state championships last Saturday.
Rugby is also a sanctioned school sport in Colorado, and three sides are competing. Perennial champ Summit High School will be present with its first and second (Tigers) teams. And Monarch High School out of Louisville, Colo., is also making the 800-mile trip.
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is sending two teams from Oregon — East County Grackles and Valley Panthers — and Liberty from Washington. This is big for this area, as stand-alone teams don’t often participate in regional or national events, whereas teams like Summit will travel in-season to Utah to play, or Rocky Mountain will boot up at NAI 7s in the summer. That type of activity is traditionally reserved for the state all-star teams, Oregon Red Hawks and Washington Loggers, and the PNW National Development Program.
And finally, Arizona has its representative in Marana High School, which is located just northwest of Tucson. Rugby Arizona holds its regular season at the turn of the year, and the girls play 7s. Matsumori indicated that, for the first year especially, there might be a combination, or club, side involved. But again, the emphasis is single-school 7s and distinguishing it from club 7s – like every other sport in America.
Games will run on grass and stadium pitches, and kick off at 3:15 p.m. MT on Friday. The tournament resumes at 8:40 a.m. Saturday, and the championship is scheduled for 12:25 p.m. The Rugby World Cup final will be showing at 1 p.m., while a luau-themed social brings all the teams together.
A: Rocky Mountain (ID), Meridian (ID), Summit Tigers (CO)
B: Owyhee (ID), Valley Panthers (OR), Monarch (CO)
C: Mountain View (ID), East County Grackles (OR), Summit HS (CO)
D: Eagle (ID), Liberty (WA), Marana (AZ)