2012 marks the first year that the Lady Barbarians (Beaverton, Ore.) are playing without their founding members. It’s a rebuilding year for the four-year-old U-19 girls’ club, but with 10 pre-season games already under their belt, they’ve proven they’ll be in the running for another State Championship berth.
The Lady Barbarians will have to make their stamp with a pretty inexperienced squad. The team graduated 11 starters last year, and is missing another four for various reasons. Fortunately, 14 players have joined the team and a slew of pre-season games are educating the new class quickly.
“This year is a rebuilding year for most teams in our league,” Lady Barbarians coach Greg Tracy said. “But I also think that our league will be competitive, regardless of rebuilding, due to the culture that the coaches throughout Rugby Oregon have instilled in the girls.”
The pre-season carrying more weight than in years past, Tracy and co-coach Mark McDonnell are fortunate that the Lady Barbarians' ardent fundraising has enable travel to tournaments like the Sacramento Kickoff Tournament. Some fortunate sponsorships also allow the team to test themselves outside of Rugby Oregon.
Tracy was pleased with the outcome of the KOT, where the team finished 1-2. They started their day against Northern California juggernaut Mother Lode, were scored upon early, but then held their opponent those seven points for the remainder of the game. The match ended seven minutes early, and so the final score stood at 7-0.
The team rebounded with a fantastic 7-5 win against national championship finalist Sacramento Amazons. Against Bishop O’Dowd, Tracy started all 14 new players and worked in veterans who had seen little playing time the year prior. BOD won 15-7.
The team has played seven games since the KOT, and the Lady Barbarians have outscored opponents 305-37 in mostly shortened matches.
“If our scores from this pre-season have anything to show for the quality of our team this year, then I am optimistic in their performance,” Tracy said. “We aren’t doing too badly for a young team. The girls are working hard to be the best they can be.”
Senior captains Tanya Salla and Rachael Sorenson, and junior captain Maurita McDonnell are leading the charge both on and off the field. They not only craft game-day lineups, but organize fundraiser and serve as disciplinarians.
But the hallmark of the Lady Barbarians’ style of play is their defense.
“Our flankers, junior Angelica Alvarez and sophomore Shelby Guerlain are some of the hardest hitting girls that I have seen,” the coach said. “They will make a tackle, the ball will be off-loaded, and then make that tackle, I have seen both of them make three tackles in a row as the ball is passed down the line. They are truly fun to watch.”
The Lady Barbarians have been pulling away from the Rugby Oregon field. They went undefeated last season until the state championship, where they lost to their biggest rival in Canby. Rugby Oregon continues to feed the team quality athletes, but Tracy noted that it was the internal network that was keeping the team so successful.
“Our team is truly a team-run organization,” Tracy said. “Every Friday the captains get together and come up with a starting line-up for the following game on Saturday. They come to this decision not based on ability, but on the number of practices attended, and the effort that each girl has put forth in practice. We are fortunate that this decision is not a difficult one. Our girls work very hard to accomplish what they have this season and in the past.”
The team also gets a ton of support from former players, including founding player Sierra Cutler and former co-captain Zoe Wilson, who both play at DI’s University of Oregon, and lend guidance to the current captains. And with the help of co-coach McDonnell, who “does more for the girls and this team than I could ever hope to do,” and McDonnell’s wife, Alahna, who manages every aspect of the team’s affairs off the field, Tracy is afforded the luxury of just focusing on coaching.
“We have a simple philosophy,” Tracy said. “We show up to practice, we work very hard during practice, and most of all we don’t lie about anything on our team. The success of any rugby team is trust. You trust that your teammate will be there for you, and that she will have your back. If a teammate lies and trust in a teammate is broken, there is a fundamental problem with the ability to be successful.”
That simple philosophy has already seen the Lady Barbarians to early-season success, and we’re eager to see how the young team peaks later in the spring.