The difficult thing about playing in an All-Star Championship is not putting together a team of good players – every territory can do that – it’s how those players work together.
For the Midwest Women’s All-Stars, Thunderbird time was a time of unity, and not surprisingly, that unity translated into an NASC championship. A championship, in fact, that they won going away, beating Southern California 37-8, and the Mid-Atlantic 48-8. In the end, it wasn’t even close.
“There’s no secret,” said flyhalf and captain Christy Ringgenberg, who was superb all weekend. “Every Midwest team I’ve been on has played as a team. Everyone has put her club behind her. Team cohesiveness has never been an issue, and I think the Midwest staff has always done a really nice job bringing everyone together.”
Leading that team was Ringgenberg, who scored 21 points on the weekend.
“My role as captain is to make sure we stay together and stay to the pattern,” said the flyhalf. “We want to be sure that all the players have bought into the system before we start. I think they did, and we have some experienced players on the team so it wasn’t a problem. Morale was really high, even when we went down early against Southern California. Everyone was always solid.”
The Thunderbirds threw a few wrinkles, perhaps one was playing Ringgenberg at flyhalf. She seems to be set to play fullback for the USA team, and says she feels most natural there, but in the #10 jersey she was very strong. Out in the centers there was Kristin Zdanczewicz, a longtime flanker.
“We had four flankers on the team,” said Ringgenberg. “We had Lauren Daly and Lynelle Kugler in the flanker positions, then Kristin as a center and Katie Johnson as a wing. Maybe that was our secret. We got to the rucks quickly and we had four flankers.”
Ringgenberg said other players stepped up, too. Wing Melissa Martinez came to her second NASC really dialed in and played well against SoCal before breaking her arm. Her replacement, Kayla Finn, stepped in and the team didn’t miss a step.
And at fullback, Michelle Wong, a scrumhalf, was outstanding.
“She had never played fullback but she did incredible well,” said Ringgenberg. “That’s what our team was like. We just put everything aside and played together. It was just a lot of fun.”