The unsanctioned high school sport of girls rugby has grown leaps and bounds at Herriman High School. In the school’s short five-year history they have become a powerhouse. The girls team finished their 2015 spring season with only one loss and ranked 18th in the country.
“We had a great season. Losing in the championship game to Orem was disappointing for the girls, but I pointed out that it is not a bad thing to lose to a good team. In our first year we won a game or two, then we made it to the quarterfinals, this year the finals. I am a proponent of steady progress and we are doing that. The boys and girls are building a program that is an asset to the community,” girls head coach Joe Hoff said.
Kylie Holker, along with five other Herriman girls, were picked for the Utah 7’s all-star team to represent Utah. Photos courtesy of Nicole Holker
The Mustangs lost their only game of the season in the state finals May 10 to Orem, 39-5, the defending girls state champions. Orem had not surrendered a point all season. Orem head coach Jeremiah Tiatia said Herriman was “aggressive and they wanted it.”
Herriman was 6-0 in the regular season. They defeated the Vipers 51-14. The Vipers are made up of girls from the south valley area also. Rugby is not a Utah High School Activities Association sanctioned sport, so boundaries are not directed and players are able to participate in any team they can. Herriman is made up of girls that attend mostly Herriman and Riverton High Schools.
“I had always wanted to play football and stuff because I had grown up with the boys. A couple of my friends told me I should try it. This was my senior year so I gave it a shot. We did well and I fell in love with the sport. All of the contact is perfect for me,” Herriman senior Kylie Holker said.
The girls rugby team at Herriman High School finished this season ranked in the top 20 in the country.
Holker has played rugby for four months. She earned starting playing time as a flank. A flank is a forward that makes short bruising runs with the ball and are usually the strongest players. Forwards also take part in the scrum, the most recognizable part of a rugby match.
“When Kylie told me she was going to play rugby I did not know the game very well. I had my first anxiety attack at the first game. I did not realize how rough the game was and how much contact they had. I thought we would end up in the emergency room. I am now cheering for her to hit harder and get in there. It was a complete switch from my first game to my last,” Kylie’s mother, Nicole Holker, said.
Holker, Jessica Boyle, Stephanie Hickman, Alex Sedrick, Delany Rakuita and Kiana Kula were selected to play on the Utah 7’s all-star team. They will be traveling to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to represent Utah in July.
Rugby is not the typical girls high school sport.
“Being aggressive is the hard part to teach the girls. Some really want to get out and tackle, but others I have to push. Contact sports for girls are limited. Kylie, Steph and Alex grasped the game. They were committed to our team on and off the field,” Hoff said.
Hoff and Holker both said the team has become like a second family.
“The culture of this game is different, after the game there is a social. For the older men they go to the bar and lie about their accomplishments. For the girls we have altered that into food and a get together. In the end this is a sisterhood of rugby players,” Hoff said.
The Mustang girls play a fall and spring season and have begun preparations for next year’s team.