Rugby players enjoy fruitful summer
It was an eventful summer for a handful of Newberg rugby players as a pair of Tiger girls led their club team to a national tournament title, while another player was recognized for his outstanding varsity season this past spring.
Newberg standouts Genesis Ulloa and Brooke Nichols capped a busy summer by helping their club team, the McMinnville-based Valley Panthers, capture the title at the North American Invitational 7s Tournament Aug. 4-5 in Salt Lake City.
Ulloa and Nichols started their summer by playing for the Oregon RedHawks, an all-star team, which won the annual Great Northwest Challenge tournament with a win over Northern California in the title game.
Newberg was unable to find a coach for the subsequent summer 7s season, so several players joined the Panthers, which was split into two teams. Ulloa, Nichols and Andrea Saavedra were chosen for the Black team, which finished second (8-1) during the regular season before falling 38-7 to Beaverton in the championship.
It was the Black team that traveled to Utah for the 7s tournament, though Saavedra was unable to make the trip.
The Panthers went 5-0 in the U-18 open division of the tournament by a combined score of 140-17, including a 17-7 win over the Upright Rugby Rogues in the final.
"We were all really excited to go and we didn't think we were going to win the tournament like we did," Ulloa said. "But we knew we had a chance at being one of the harder teams to play against. It was kind of surprising that we got that far, but as soon as we knew we had a chance, we were going all out for it."
Ulloa, who graduated in the spring and will play rugby at Central Washington University in the fall, said she is proud of how Newberg's players performed over the summer.
"Losing the summer 7s championship was kind of sad, but the Beaverton team was stacked," Ulloa said. "We knew it was going to be tough and then the NAT went great."
Another recent NHS graduate, Hutton Peterson, also got a nice surprise over the summer, as he was named to website FloRugby's list of "Hot High School Players."
"I wasn't really expecting that," Peterson said. "We did really good this year, but I wasn't expecting anything like that."
After playing as a sophomore, but not a junior, Peterson had a breakout season for Newberg last spring, leading the Tigers to an appearance in the Rugby Oregon Varsity Premiership championship game.
Peterson set new school records for tries in a season (14), tries in a career (16), points in a single match (tie-20) and points in a season (70).
"My position helped a lot because I'm like a middle back, so I tend to get the ball quite a bit," Peterson said of his scoring surge. "It helps when you have people who can set up plays and offload it when they're getting tackled."
Peterson, who is set to join the Marine Corps next month, was one of five players from Oregon to receive the honor and one of 50 nationally to be honored for their play at the center position.