HUDSON — One thing’s for sure: Brunswick’s girls rugby coach Dan Prater knows the hearing in his left ear will come back.
The memories of his young squad capturing the Division II state title Saturday afternoon, however, will stay with him forever.
Prater guided the Blue Devils, in just their second year as a club, to a thrilling 27-24 victory over St. Joseph Academy’s junior varsity in a sudden-death kick-off at Hudson’s Dante Lavelli Stadium.
“It took us a second, but once reality set in I turned to my girls and said, ‘We won, we won,” he said. “Then I may have lost hearing in my left ear.
“I’ve been to concerts at Blossom (Music Center) next to the speakers, but I didn’t know that 15 girls could make that noise. My ears are still ringing.”
Brunswick had just beaten a well-established program that crushed the Blue Devils 51-0 earlier this spring.
“After they missed that last kick, I just remember screaming,” said senior fly half Rachel Lash, who finished with a game-high four tries and the eventual game-winning kick. “We were exhausted. We had playing for over two hours and it was emotional. I was just so happy.”
While the typical rugby contest takes an hour, Brunswick (4-2) battled previously undefeated
St. Joseph and the 80-degree heat to come away with the win after two five-minute overtime periods and a sudden-death kick-off.
After the Jaguars missed their first kick, Lash lofting a ball that went dead center through the uprights. The conversion held through the next three rounds before St. Joseph missed again, giving the victory to the Blue Devils.
“It was absolutely amazing. It was like David and Goliath,” Lash said. “I definitely think we caught them off-guard because the first time we played against them we didn’t even have a try.”
In the opening minutes, Lash scored on a hard run and was followed by an Alyssa Riedel conversion. But St. Joe’s kept pushing and overcame gritty defensive play from Alex Hulvalchick, Alexis Barnes and Nicole Reis to force the game into OT.
Prater also mentioned Carly Rayer for her hard-nosed play, along with Alliyah Miller, Andreya Kopy, Arie Moore, Brittany Rhodes, Brooke Hensley, Cassie Demeter, Emily Beukmann, Hannah Grosse, Shelbie Peters and Tatum Siefer.
The Blue Devils went up 24-19 in the first overtime on a Lash try before the Jaguars tied it up.
“I’m still in shock,” said Hulvalchick, a senior inside center. “To go from not winning a game (last season) to winning the title is amazing.
“It was intimidating, but us scoring off the bat gave us the edge and a feeling like, ‘We can do this.’”
It wasn’t the first comeback for Brunswick, which overcame a halftime deficit to beat the Highland Buzzards 12-10 in the semifinals a week ago.
The Blue Devils lost to the Buzzards and Jaguars by a combined 82-10 score in the regular season.
“After we scraped out that win against Highland, I think the girls had an edge to them,” said Prater, whose team had just 16 players in uniform Saturday compared to the Jaguars’ full squad of 25. “It wasn’t a situation where it was just a great feeling playing in the finals. We remembered what St. Joe’s did to us (earlier in the year) and we went after them.”
It never would have happened if not for the hard work of the community.
In January, the Blue Devils were without a coach after Nicole Incandela left in the offseason and playing the season at all was very much in doubt.
Assistant coaches Hannah Baier and Bill Florek kept the club alive along with veterans like Lash and Hulvalchick. Combine that with the fact that half of the Brunswick hadn’t played a minute of the sport before this spring and the accomplishment is more impressive.
“It was a battle,” Lash said. “We overcame a lot of adversity and it was people kuje Baier that saved the program and Coach Prater.
“It’s amazing to think in January that we almost didn’t have a program. I never would have imagined that I would be sitting her now with a medal around my next and us bringing home a trophy.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.