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Hamburg Rugby Club sends girls to states, team takes bronze medal

What would be an historic weekend for the girls Hamburg Rugby Club almost did not happen.

Franklin Thompson took his team to Marcy, NY at SUNY Institute of Technology for the New York State Public High School Rugby Championships on May 31-June 1, coming home with a bronze medal in the Tier 1 State Championships.

Just 24 hours before the first game, Thompson did not have any plans on making the trip to states.

“I got a phone call at 9:30 on Friday morning asking if I could get a team together and make it the next day,” Thompson said, hearing the news that one team dropped out at the last minute. “I told them to give me an hour to see if my girls could go, and with 13 confirmed and two maybes, I called them and said ‘Yes, we’d be there.’ And I showed up with 15 girls exactly.”

Hamburg is one of the seven rugby teams that belong to the Western division. The Metro and Capital divisions round out the three divisions in the league.

There are only four teams that are allowed to play in the New York State High School Rugby Championships every year. The three division winners and the second place team from the division that held the previous year’s best record earn the limited spots in the state tournament.

The criteria to advance to the state tournament was changed a bit when the league decided to drop the regional championship format, which was held as the state qualifier in the past.

Kenmore awaited Hamburg in the bronze medal game on June 1, winning the previous meeting between the two teams on May 1 in the regular season.

Hamburg finished the regular season 4-2, finishing second in the Western division after winning a tiebreaker that involved total points. Kenmore was the first place team in the same division.

A club that was born in 2009, Thompson’s club first competed at states for the first time in 2013.

Outnumbered in the first game during the trip to states in 2014, three more Hamburg girls showed up for the bronze medal game, helping to defeat Kenmore, 10-5, with two subs on the bench. Amanda Lenau and Amanda Klubek were the two try scorers.

“This is an amazing team,” said Thompson, who showed up to the tournament with the minimum 15 players. “They played with tremendous heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of girls at that moment.”

On the previous day, Hamburg lost the first game to Play Rugby USA Academy, 62-10, losing an opportunity to play in the gold medal game.

But Thompson saw promise in his group of 15, the minimum players needed to participate in a game, that day when one of his girls went down with an injury, forcing the girls to play shorthanded.

“What was really cool was that one of my girls got injured…well that’s not the cool part…but she was taken off, and with only 14 players my girls scored their two tries for our 10 points,” Thompson said.

Hamburg is led by its two captains, Olivia Gow and Jenna Bauer. Gow was not able to make the first round game against Play Rugby USA Academy, but “during the bronze game she really contributed,” according to Thompson.

Gow and Bauer are joined by Madalyn Smith and Sara Harmon as some of the Hamburg cheerleaders that play on the club rugby team during the spring season.

Another one of Thompson’s rugby players, Hayley Kobie, also has a state medal in softball. Kobie won the Class B state championship at Eden this spring a few weeks after medaling with the Hamburg Rugby Football Club.

More key players on the team are Kelly DeGrood, Clarisa Delgado, Sabrina Dorninger, Leah Elsaesser, Stephanie Gates, Alicia Giles, Gabrielle Hafner and Amanda Klubek.

Molly Lanfear, Amanda Lenau, Katherine LeBello, Brooke Morley, Mickala Nellist, Stephanie Saia, Aleaha Schwinn, Amanda Cislo, Katie Courtney, Isabel Luthringer, Emily Reed, Jessica Rote, Kathryn Scanlon, Mackenzie Scanlon and Emma Walsh have also made the club’s first state medal season possible.

As for the coaches, Thompson led the team alongside Cara Thayer, Bre Daniel, Gabrelle Rodriguez, Maddy Rodriguez and Alan Checko.

Hamburg’s boys team made its first trip to the state tournament this spring, earning a silver medal in Tier 2.

Although the Hamburg Rugby Club is not affiliated with the high school, raising funds on its own to sponsor for equipment and travel, Hamburg High School has been very supportive of the club, letting the rugby team play its home games on Howe Field during Sundays in the spring.

The Nike Base is the alternate home field for the Hamburg Rugby Club.


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