Now that the girls’ high school championship is an invitational, configuring the divisions isn’t as formulaic. Seven of the eight teams in division one were shoe-ins, and were successful this season and in the recent past. The eighth seed, however, came down to a couple of candidates, and Danville got the nod.
It was the Northern California team’s performance against the Sacramento Amazons that put the team in the top tier. After defeating the Bay Area powerhouse, Danville dropped a tight 25-17 Nor Cal final to the Amazons. It was good enough, however, to warrant a shot at the rest of the top teams.
Today, Danville inaugurated their first-ever trip to a national tournament, but that’s not even the interesting detail about the team. Danville are finishing out their first-ever season in existence, and they’ve made some incredible strides with a team of rookies.
“Only three of my players have played rugby before, and the majority are freshmen or sophomores,” Danville coach Simi Hingano said. “All we concentrated on were the fundamentals – tackling, passing. We didn’t have time for anything else – like offloads. I haven’t taught them how to offload. And our phases, there is only one. I’d like to develop up to three phases. But the future is bright.”
It sure is. Even though Danville dropped its opening match to Fallbrook 41-0, it wasn’t as one-sided as the score suggests. Had Danville learned to offload, for instance, they could have made better use of the double-tackles needed to bring down the hard-running Lady Oaks. It’s exciting to imagine players like lock Meleane Fifita develop in such a matter. The freshman is athletic and difficult to corral, and her go-forward will be a good set-up to more fluid forward movements.
The most impressive player on Danville’s squad is Leti Hingano, who added her name to the up-and-comer list today. Fallbrook went to great lengths to contain the incredible shifty, speedy fullback, who on several occasions inserted into the backline for breaks into the open field.
“Yeah, I like it,” Hingano responded to his team’s first NIT game against the number one team. “I’m excited to see the level of competition, so we know what we need in terms of our preparation. The girls have seen what we need to do when we get back so we can be ready for this level. For that, I’m optimistic, regardless of what’s happened so far.”
Danville got out to an early lead against Summit, which had dropped its quarterfinal 12-5 to Catholic Memorial, in the consolation semifinals. The Colorado side tied it up and forced overtime and then pulled ahead for the 15-12 win.
“We could have done better, but we didn’t play to our level of our game,” Hingano said. “But I’m pleased; I’m not disappointed. We focused on fundamentals, but we realized that’s not enough. I only have four seniors, so everyone will be back next year, and we’ll work on all that other stuff. More good things are coming our way.”
Danville will have one more shot at a national’s win tomorrow, as they face West Carroll in the 7th place match. The Maryland team fell 33-17 to Sacramento during the consolation semifinals. It all goes down at 10:30 a.m. CST Sunday.