Grand Haven’s girls rugby team continued its impressive streak of third-place finishes at the state level last weekend. Their 22-7 victory in the third-place match over Berkley makes it five years in a row finishing in the top three of the state, as Grandville defeated Sparta to win the title last Saturday.
“I was so proud of our girls,” head coach Jessi Brewer said. Brewer and fellow coach Megan Kamsickas created the club in 2015, and have coached it since its inception. “We really create such a great family atmosphere around the team.”
Eva Ortiz, Hannah Houghtaling, Ke'bah Wilson and Zoe Saunders scored tries – the rugby equivalent to a touchdown – against Berkley while Houghtaling kicked the conversions. Ortiz is the younger sister of Olivia, who was recently made part of the national team’s rugby roster.
One of the things Brewer and her staff emphasize is playing everyone on their roster, even during matches in the state finals.
“We started the year with 43 girls, and by the end of the season we still had 30,” Brewer said. “One of the things we made sure was that every girl on the roster got to play.”
In most cases, Grand Haven students join the team with little prior experience.
“Having some athletic background does help,” Brewer said. “We’ve also started setting up camps at the youth levels through NORA that way some people have some fundamentals heading in.”
Team chemistry is something Brewer says happens by default with rugby. The inherent violence of the game is less malicious than its cousin, football, while playing in close quarters with teammates creates automatic bonds.
“One of the best things about the sport is the bonds they create,” Brewer said. “It’s truly a family atmosphere, after games both teams will get together to eat and drink together, rugby has such a truly unique atmosphere. Your team becomes like your family.”
Contact Kyle Turk at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.