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State College Girls Rugby Wins State Championship

by on May 18, 2016 10:30 AM

For a time, the State College Area High School girls rugby team was the best in the state, but by the start of the decade the program had begun to struggle.

Those struggles are over, and the Lady Little Lions are back on top.

The undefeated State College squad claimed the Pennsylvania state championship last weekend, defeating Downingtown 19-7 to take the title. State High rolled in to the final after beating the defending state champion Valkyries, based out of North Penn High School, 68-5.

"It takes time to build a positive team culture, recruit athletes and then teach players the game.  Inevitably every girls rugby player comes to the program having never played the game," Coach Bernie Cantorna said. "When I first came on board as a coach, we had graduated a large senior class and had a large freshman class, who are now seniors. We have an equally large junior class. These players have matured, worked and actually helped bring along the current JV players on the team."

State College fell behind early against Downingtown but quickly recovered on a successful try from sophomore Joannah Skucek.  The Lady Little Lions pulled away with a try from senior Sarah Mosier and another from sophomore Gigi Agliardo. Junior Emmy Booz added two conversions.

Cantorna credited the hard work of the players and a dedicated staff of volunteer coaches. In addition to Cantorna, who also coaches defense for the Penn State women's team, and former boys coach Shawn Smith, those coaches have included players from the Penn State national championship teams: National Player of the Year Hope Rogers, All-Americans Gabby Cantorna and Kate Mueller, Gionna Solomon, Courtney Williams and Beth Rose. 

"This team is special because of the players and their character," Cantorna said. 

He cited the efforts of the team captains and leadership committee, including Sarah Rohan (C) Jossie Eggert (forward selector) and Larissa McGhee (backs selector). The back line is lead by junior flyhalf Dorina Roe, with strong runners and defenders in junior Ali Wicks, senior Lauren Anderson and Booz. The forward positions have exciting players including sophomores Skucek and Agliardo and seniors Rebecca Faustina and Mosier.

 

"It is a well balanced team and a team that supports each other on and off the field," Cantorna said. It is how these players respect and work for each other that I find the most rewarding as a coach."

 

Next up for State College is the High School Single-School National Invitational Championship at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

"We have 35 girls on the roster who are looking forward to the challenge," Cantorna said. "All season we try and improve and get better as players and people.  The trip to Nationals is the next step on that journey. They expect to go out and keep improving each game.  We focus on the details and doing the simple things right. Nothing changes when we travel to Nationals. We actually have more time together and that is their objective, to continue this journey through the last game."

 

 



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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