Kiski Valley rugby teams vying for state championships
Monday, May 13, 2019 | 5:52 PM
In the last five years, Kiski Valley rugby has built its program to be on par with some of best in the state and last week reflected that when the girls and boys teams were awarded top seeds in their respective brackets.
After a bit of a strange week when both teams’ first-round opponents forfeited, the club moved a step closer to its goal of winning two state titles. This weekend they will head to Eastern Pennsylvania looking to bring back a couple championships.
Th boys team plays No. 4 North Penn in the Club Division II semifinals 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Penn State Berks. If they win, they will play for their second state title Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
The girls will try to win their first title when they play No. 3 Conestoga in the Division II state championship 3:45 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve done well the last few years, but with both teams having a very good shot of winning states, you can tell everyone is super hyped to play and take that chance,” Kiski Valley girls forwards captain Autumn Trempus said.
Obtaining top seeds is the latest example of the success the Titans have had the last few years.
On the boys side, Kiski Valley was a state champion in 2016 and was the runner-up last season. The girls have been the runners-up three times in a row and are in only their fifth year of competition.
“I don’t want to say that we expect it, but every year at the start of our gym sessions in November we sit the team down and ask them their goal and every year since the first year their answer has been state championship,” Kiski Valley boys coach/club founder Seth Erwin said. “The kids work. They know what it takes to be at that level. We challenge them in the right ways to get better.”
The boys were preparing to host West Chester for a quarterfinal match Sunday but learned Tuesday the Philadelphia-area club would not be making the trip and would forfeit.
With a bye week before playoffs, it means that the Titans (4-1) have had two weeks since their last match, which Erwin said he isn’t a fan of, but he has an experienced group that is healthy.
The Titans have 18 seniors on their 24-man roster, led by overall captain Andrew Bigler. A half dozen of the Titans are going on to play rugby in college next season.
“Our strongest point this year is that we don’t have many inexperienced bench players,” Erwin said. “We have starters and we have finishers.”
The Titans have received a boost from having several Burrell players join the team after the Buckheads decided to sit out the season out because of low numbers. R.J. Beach and Austin Mele are former Buckheads who were in the Kiski Valley junior program. Both have contributed this year, and their transition has been mostlyy smooth and everyone is “all-in” to get the club its second title.
“Once we knew that were bringing the Burrell guys back into the fold, I think our biggest task was restructuring our family here,” Erwin said. “For a while, Kiski vs. Burrell was the good A-K Valley rugby rivalry, but now we’re on the same side. They had to get adjusted to how we do things. I think we pushed the right buttons to get everyone in the Titan family again.”
The girls team was scheduled to host Woodland Hills for a semifinal match on Sunday but the Wolverines did not have enough players to field a full roster, forcing them to forfeit.
The teams ended up playing a friendly match Sunday, tying 12-12. The Titans used it as a tune-up for the state championship.
Led by overall captain Rilee Roach, backs captain Kelsie Magill and Trempus, they will look to break through after three consecutive losses in the finals. Their opponent, Conestoga, upset No. 2 Chambersburg, 21-20, in the semifinals.
Kiski Valley girls (5-0) have rolled through their opponents this season, including Chambersburg, 55-12.
They had some close matches with Chambersburg the last few years, and though they won’t get a rematch, the lopsided win gave them a confidence boost heading into the postseason.
“We were not expecting that game to go as well as it did, because usually Chambersburg has like 30 girls and a full, solid, athletic team,” Trempus said. “After that match, everyone was excited and relieved. It was a good indication of where we stand.”
The Titans have put themselves in good position, now they want to prove that they are the top club in Division II.
“I think everyone wants to get this done,” Trempus said. “On the boys, side there’s so many that are graduating, so they’re pushing for it because their team isn’t going to be same after this year. We want to get our first girls title, too.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer
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