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Tech Teams Find Redemption in Flagstaff

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., October 4, 2011 – Following disastrous starts on a rainy weekend at the 31st annual Northern Arizona Tens tournament in Flagstaff over the weekend, each of New Mexico Tech's rugby clubs - the Queens and Pygmies - had to find their way to regroup and end on a winning note. For both teams, doing so provided a happy ending to what threatened to be a miserable, wet weekend.

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The Queens of Rugby -- New Mexico Tech's women's team -- at the Northern Arizona 10s tournament. Above, the Queens pose with four guest players from the Las Vegas (Nev.) Slots following their win over Northern Arizona University. From left are Guest 1, player Tanya Ross, Guest 2, Katie Trujillo, Jade Horton (with ball), coach Jordan Fastle, Guest 3, Willie Desir, Guest 4, Danielle Shipley, Lisa Sanchez and Michaela Rempkowski.

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The New Mexico Tech Pygmies rugby team in Flagstaff, Ariz., Sunday morning following their 26-0 win over Embry Riddle University at the Northern Arizona Tens Tournament in Flagstaff.

The Pygmies' remarkable string of five collegiate titles ended, but they managed to win their last of three games Saturday and a consolation match on Sunday morning.

The resurgent Queens had audaciously entered the ten-woman competition with only seven traveling players - three with marginal playing experience - and were destined to struggle against established clubs from Arizona and beyond. Even after borrowing three volunteers from other teams for their first match Saturday morning against the Las Vegas Slots, the affair was a predictable runaway for the eventual woman's bracket champions, 50-odd points to nil. An hour later the Queens showed marginal improvement in losing to New Mexico State, against whom Tech's new players had debuted the preceding Saturday, but lost a player to injury in the process.

By the end of their third match of the day against Arizona State University's fleet and accomplished team, the Queens still had not budged the scoreboard, and host team Northern Arizona University waited in the wings for the final afternoon match.

For the rookie-laden, short-on-numbers Queens, it turned out to be a case of "who you know." Four veteran players from the Las Vegas Slots donned Tech's colors to help show the way, and the Queens responded in high fashion to produce a crowd-pleasing 34-0 victory. Among the six tries scored by Queens and Co., Techies Danielle Shipley and Jade Horton each put down one.

Meanwhile the Pygmies's campaign for a five-peat ended abruptly Saturday morning with a 45-17 drubbing by the Tempe Rugby Club's Under-23 side. The men's club understudies combined speed with power that sometimes crossed the line of sportsmanship and three key players - lineout specialist Tyler Augster and captains Isaiah Sanchez and Stefan Marr - were relegated to spectator status through injury with three matches still to play.

As the clouds opened and a day of drenching commenced the Tech team looked shell-shocked against host Northern Arizona University, a team they had not lost to in five years. The Landsharks scored one try in the first half and two in the second to drop Tech 21-0.

The Pygmies finally got untracked with a resounding 29-7 win over Arizona State University. Prop James Chavez, recently returned from a three-week pilgrimage to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, led the five forwards in dominating ball possession for a hungry Tech back line led by Brock Romero, Enrique Koerdell, and Dustin Webb. Webb and Romero each bagged a pair of five-point tries, and halfback Jerod Aragon claimed one by driving – and being driven - over the line in a classic piece of close-quarter forward play.

On Sunday morning a Tech team comprised almost entirely of rookies met traditional NA Tens rival Black Sheep of Embry Riddle University in a friendly match. (Tempe Under 23 went on to defeat NAU in the final.) With only Romero, Koerdell, and forward captain Blaine Trujillo on the field for guidance, the young Pygmies poured it on early and center C.V. Harris of Magdalena scored his first career try inside two minutes. Trujillo's young forward pack consistently drove the Black Sheep scrum backwards, resulting in a feast of ball for first-year scrum half Rick Cosentino to distribute competently to the backs. Harris added another try before halftime from a expertly-timed pass from Romero, who then added the two-point conversion kick.

In the second half, battering runs up the middle by lock forward Lee Abeyta and props Anthony Cortez and Scott Raymond cleared the way for speedy freshman wing Aaron Long to collect two tries on the outside. First-time hooker Ryan Johnson showed mettle in a new position and lock Ken Smith tackled and rucked enthusiastically. Romero's two conversion kicks completed Tech's redemption, 26-0.

The Pygmies return to action in the High Desert Classic tournament at Albuquerque's Bullhead Park October 15-16, with the Queens most likely to play unattached.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director