Ohio is making their case for being one of the strongest girls’ high school regions in the country, and the Ohio Elite side that ended June with two first-place trophies is testament to that fact. During the final two weekends of the month, the all-star squad returned home with trophies from the Midwest All Star Championship and Pittsburgh All Star Championship.
Twenty players from eight schools comprised the Ohio Elite team that traveled to Elkhart, Ind., for the Midwest showcase. There, the team beat Minnesota (24-12), Michigan (47-0) and Minnesota (15-12). Four-year starter and captain Lexi Gretz (Midwest Thunderbirds) led the team by example and accounted for nine points. Chelsea Clark (Lakewood, 5 points) had the best pace of the tournament, Jianna McCullough (Lakewood, 15 points) reiterated her powerful ballcarrying skills in the centers, and Hannah Long (Parma, 15 points) propelled the forwards. St. Joseph’s Lauren Brooks led all scorers with 25 points, while Libby Hill (Hudson, 12 points) and Quincy Persinger (Amherst, 5 points) also contributed to the scoreboard.
“We did not have the biggest team, size or numbers but we were the best and hardest working team out there,” Ohio Elite coach Nic Lovatt said. "Each player played a major role in every game, and when we made subs, there was never a drop-off in talent. This allowed us to play better at the end of games than any other team. This was by far the most talented and competitive Midwest Tournament that I have seen and Ohio rose to the top.”
Due to Ohio’s standout performance, eight of the 30 players have been invited to the Midwest U19 assembly, which will make the state the most represented in the territory. This is a huge accomplishment for the team, seeing as three years ago, there were no Ohio representatives on the team.
But even more impressive, five players caught the eyes of USA U20 scouts in attendance.
“If I had to make an educated guess, 2-3 players will get an invite, although I will be pushing for all five,” Lovatt said. “This is still a great accomplishment and proves that our league and the competition within it is developing some of the best rugby players in the nation.”
The following weekend, the team got on the road to Pittsburgh to face another round of all-star teams. The team began the weekend with only 15 players, before the whole squad arrived on Sunday, but pulled through to win all four games by a combined score of 97-30.
This time, Lakewood’s Shailah Anderson led all point scorers with 20 points, while McCullough matched her previous weekend’s output with 15. Tournament MVP Ali DeCrane and Clark notched 15 points as well, while Cyndi Campbell (10 points), Long (10 points), Persinger (5 points), Brittany Kapsalis (5 points) and Gretz (2 points) also scored.
"All weekend I had the boys’ and girls’ scouts, admin and other coaches coming up to me complimenting the Ohio players,” Lovatt said. “We were definitely the stars of the tournament, including the boys’ side of the event.
“The girls are very excited about Ohio Elite Rugby,” Lovatt added. “This will lead to even better teams moving forward, and more Ohio Players representing the Midwest Thunderbirds and the USA U-20 National Team.”
Ohio has every right to be happy. Lakewood represented the state in the Girls’ National High School Championship, and then added to all-star titles to their trophy case. All in all, the last 30 days have been memorable for the Ohio athletes.