Valley Valkyries rugby scrum goes through Spring Valley tournament
It may be a technical detail, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club was de facto champion of its tournament organized this weekend.
The high school rugby club went 2-1 with a mostly rookie roster at Spring Valley on Saturday and were prepared for their championship game ahead of their potential opponent’s departure before kick-off. As of this writing, Colorado Rugby has yet to decide whether the Valkyries will be named champions by forfeit or if it will all just be a wash. For players, many of whom were only in their second competition in the sport, this is a moot point.
“Everyone loved to have fun and play good rugby,” said Valkyries coach Ike Fitzgerald. “I don’t think the players are going to care (the de facto championship). It was just a good rugby weekend.
The Conifer Lumberjackies beat the Valkyries to open the day and went 3-0 in the tournament before leaving early. Fitzgerald said he would have liked another chance with them because he “didn’t like the way we started the day” but was determined to see the rapid development of his team.
The Valkyries are made up of 10 players, seven from Glenwood Springs High School and three from Basalt. The 7s team, named after the number of players on the field, started their first training session of the season without a replacement. The majority of the list had never touched a rugby ball before the summer. Now, just two weeks later, Western Slope’s only high school rugby club has very high expectations.
“I can honestly say we may not lose another game this season,” said Fitzgerald.
The Valkyries have been around since 2018 and have made their presence known in a short time as a club. In their inaugural year, they enjoyed a 14-game winning streak from beginner to senior level, Fitzgerald said.
They didn’t have a season last year, which means sophomores and freshmen from two years ago are now the top-class students of the team. The team is always open to new guests.
The now juniors on the team haven’t played much as freshmen either, Fitzgerald said. One elder, Annalize Richardson, is the seasoned veteran.
“I just really liked the environment a lot,” said Richardson. “I have the chance to play with my teammates and spend time with them.”
Richardson enjoys sports for different reasons. The physical aspect is fun. It keeps her in shape.
But she was the quickest to notice the team’s camaraderie. The novelty, as well as the physique, make rugby players a tight-knit group. Basalt senior Haylie Bledsaw, who joined the team just a few weeks ago, has already noticed the difference between rugby and other sports.
“Compared to other sports I’ve played, this team is definitely more about connecting and making those connections,” said Bledsaw.
It also extends beyond the team. In tournaments like Saturday’s, the group of rugby players mingle with other teams between matches, developing a sense of community.
For players like Bledsaw, it’s a different way of playing sports in high school. But for some, it can lead to more. Women’s rugby is one of the most in-demand scholarships at the college level, Fitzgerald said. Richardson, in his conversations with colleges, is considering staying in the sport. On Sunday, two alumni of the program faced off at the college club level – Angie Gonzalez for Colorado State University and Tami Islas Morales for the University of Colorado.
Right now, it’s about playing a sport that no other girl in western Colorado does. The Valkyries will then play at Infinity Park in Denver on Saturday.