A lot of the players on the Portland Rugby Club’s under-19 girls’ team had a big decision to make going into this weekend.

“It’s prom weekend for a lot of schools, and most of our girls had to choose between the prom or rugby,” said Jaime Madore, one of the team’s coaches.

Sorry, guys. All of the girls are playing rugby this weekend.

“It just shows what kind of dedication the players on this team have,” Madore said.

Starting today, the team will compete for the Northeast Rugby Union’s northeast championship at Rochester, N.Y.

The winner of the four-team, two-day event will earn a berth in USA Rugby’s national tournament May 22-23 in Sandy, Utah.

The team includes players from Casco Bay, Deering, Falmouth, Gorham, Greely, Portland, Westbrook and Yarmouth high schools.

“We have a whole wide range of athletes (on the team),” Madore said. “There’s soccer players. There’s basketball players. Cheerleaders. A little bit of everything. It’s certainly a diverse group.”

Last weekend the team defeated opponents from Vermont and Massachusetts by a combined score of 90-0 to win the New England Rugby Football Union championship for its age group in a tournament at New London, N.H.

“We don’t even think about defense,” said Maria Genova, a Portland High senior who is in her fourth season playing in the forward line.

“We’re always on offense, it seems. When the other team gets the ball, we always get it right back.”

Like a lot of the girls on the team, Genova, one of the captains, has a sports background. In high school, she’s played soccer and basketball.

“Basketball and soccer are physical games but there’s always that caution (about) hitting people,” Genova said.

“In this game, you get possession (of the ball) by tackling. Everyone on this team loves to tackle. We’ve got girls on this team who weigh 100 pounds and they love to tackle.”

The physical nature of rugby is a big reason some of the girls took up the sport.

“Actually, I played football right up until high school,” said Ally Day, a Gorham High junior in her third season playing fly half for the rugby team. “I started to think the boys were getting a little bit too big, but I wanted a contact sport.”

But the physical nature of rugby isn’t the only reason the girls play.

“It’s purely a team sport,” Genova said. “You have to rely on everyone, which I like.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]