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South Hopes for U19 15s Momentum

  • 21 Feb 2019

Photo: Christine Cancian

The USA South fielded a mostly U20 team against the Midwest High School Thunderbirds last weekend, and the hope is that the assembly is the first of many 15s opportunities to come. It’s taken some time to rebuild the women’s Panthers all-star system, but with the seniors and U23s meeting regularly now, Chris Martin, who coaches both, hopes to see the U19s take off.

“I definitely think the interest is there, but we already do several U23 events per year, and I know that with [the Las Vegas Invitational], the timing of this specific event can be hard on bodies and finances,” Martin referenced some current limiters. “I will have to talk to the Youth coach prior to committing to any more youth events, but I see the potential, and very much so want to invest my time in making those events happen.”

Martin found his players while scouting playoff events, through coach recommendations, and by fielding individual inquiries as news of the Midwest series circulated through the grapevine. The selection options expanded into the collegiate realm, as the Midwest requested an U20 opponent. Thus all but two South players were aged 16-20.

“I think it definitely gave both teams the challenge they wanted,” Martin referenced the age gap, “while giving us an opportunity to look at the future of the South and realize the potential of its youth in the 15s game.”

Photo: Christine Cancian

At present, the South doesn’t regularly field a 15s team for high school-aged girls. It’s all 7s. The boys’ program has remained intact, as Rugby Americas North provides competition for that level. But there used to a be a girls’ South U19 team, back when the Territorial Unions had all-star championships. When TUs dissolved years ago, so did comprehensive all-star programs. The Midwest was the only region that kept its U18 and U24 Thunderbirds alive through touring, although its senior team is still dormant. Slowly but surely, regions have been rebuilding their all-star systems and creating competitions for them, albeit the growth is in all different directions.

Leading the way was captain Casli Waugh, who was the oldest player by a decent margin and had represented the South previously. Her experience and positivity made her an obvious choice as leader, according to Martin. On Saturday, the South lost a 43-27 content and then regrouped for Sunday. After trailing early on, the Panthers rallied back into the lead. The Thunderbirds took a five-point lead into the waning minutes of the match, and the South battered the try line for one more score. The game ended with the Midwest holding up the South in the try zone, 22-17 the final.

Across the weekend, Martin pointed to standouts like Julianne Carter of McMinn High School in Tennessee. She’s normally a flyhalf that was placed at flanker, “and was ferocious in defense and won many of our turnovers,” Martin praised.

Photo: Christine Cancian

“Alex Wantlin of Wellington U19 was almost our youngest player, but showed her athleticism and experience well, leading from the 10 position and scoring several tries,” the coach continued. “Gabby Colasurdo of Eastern Carolina also surprised with her energy, vision, and power on both offense and defense at 13.”

See below for full roster.

The weekend was also a good experience for assistant coaches Buck Billings, who is relocating from McMinn High School to Lander University, which is transitioning to varsity in fall 2019; and T Fletcher, a veteran South player, who recently accepted the head coaching position for the American International College men’s team. Martin indicate that both coaches commanded the girls’ attention and had a lot of positive involvement.

“Florida was awesome, and the group was a blast,” Martin summarized. “It definitely felt more like a ‘tour’ than some of our high-level-but-subrurban events have been. The team came together nicely, despite such an age and experience difference for some players.”

Here’s hoping the experience was enough to encourage a repeat assembly and then some.


Aurora Bonham

Julianne Carter

Gabby Colasurdo

Lindsey Dennis

Natalie Garrett

Haley Gilligan

Catie Gluck

Alexis Harrouch

Kya Heard

Aly Martin

Rachel Niemira

Taylor Redmond

Destiny Roberts

Danielle Satherlie

Lexi Vance

Lacie Varnum

Casli Waugh (C)

Elizabeth Waldt

Alex Wantlin

Cayla Watson

Ava Zopf

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