Burnsville girls rugby wins state title
Club team outlasts Faribault in final
Everything came together for the Burnsville girls rugby team last weekend.
When the season began, the girls didn’t know if they would have enough players to field a team. During the season they often played shorthanded.
But in the end, the girls won the Tier 2 state championship last weekend at Blake High School with a 20-12 victory over Faribault.
Things started to look up when the girls defeated Chisago 40-0 in the first round.
“It was easily their best performance of the year,” head coach Ron Ericksmoen said. “They figured it out as a group. They got the ball out into the girls who could run well and let them do their thing.”
Rugby is a sport with wild momentum swings, and Burnsville players were swinging it to their side when it mattered.
“You could tell they wanted to win the championship,” Ericksmoen said. “In rugby, you can have your individuals that stand out and score, but it’s very much a team effort. There’s no one person who can run through all 15 of the opposition’s players. It takes everyone on the field working together.”
Against a hard-hitting Faribault team, the girls had one fewer player on the field because of injury and their top scorer Sophie McCabe was sent to the sin box, the rugby version of the penalty box.
Up 15-12 late in the game, Burnsville was at a 13-to-15 player disadvantage.
The girls held Faribault off and as soon as McCabe was set loose she scored again, leading the team with three tries.
“When the final whistle blew our whole team was ecstatic,” player Emily Rada said.” A few girls cried tears of joy. It was awesome to let the seniors go with a state title.”
McCabe was awarded the Player of the Match capping off a season in which she was the club’s top scorer with 23.
“That’s an astounding number,” Ericksmoen said. “I would venture to say there probably wasn’t another girl in the state that even hit double digits in tries.”
McCabe, Katie Reuder, Avery Mitchell Brown and Amber Rosswaag were named to the all-state team.
The girls were used to playing shorthanded. When the season began, only 14 girls were on the roster for a sport that needs 15.
“At the beginning we didn’t have a lot of girls, so we didn’t know if we’d even have a season,” Rada said.
The players recruited a few more, but injuries sidelined some players along the way. The girls finished the season 4-2-1.
“As you get some success there were a lot of girls that were showing up and friends started coming,” Ericksmoen said. “There’s a whole group of girls who didn’t play this year and want to play next year. It’s a growing sport nationwide and Minnesota has a pretty good rugby league.”
The rules are the same for boys and girls.
“It’s one thing the girls really like,” Ericksmoen said. “They play exactly the same way. There’s no checking in hockey and in lacrosse you can’t hit. In rugby, everything is the same.”
Rada said the aggressive nature of the sport looks worse than it is.
“A lot of people are afraid of it when they see people get tackled, but you learn how to get tackled safely,” she said.
When you don’t wear pads and a helmet, players tend to be more careful. It’s rare when someone tries to hurt an opponent.
“After the games both teams share a meal,” Rada said. “Whatever problems you have you can talk it through. In the end we all just love the same sport and make friends with other teams.”
Although the team is the Burnsville Rugby football club, it is the only girls team south of the river and draws players from high schools in Burnsville, Savage, Eagan, Prior Lake, Lakeville and Apple Valley.
“Rugby is so different than any other sport I’ve played,” Rada said. “One of the things I like is that it brings a lot of people together and there’s a spot for everybody on the team. The girls are one big family. It’s cool because you have ties to different schools.”
The girls aren’t done playing this summer. McCabe, Reuder and Tia Eriksmoen are playing with the Minnesota Select team, which will vie for the Midwest Title in Indiana.
Rada and the rest of the girls plan on playing some pick up games this summer.
Visit www.burnsvillerugby.org or email email@example.com for more information. The girls and boys teams are always recruiting.
The Burnsville boys team finished fifth at state defeating Wayzata 36-5 and East Valley 28-17.