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Tech Rugby Teams Prove Generous Hosts

SOCORRO, N.M. April 17, 2013 – New Mexico Tech’s men’s and women’s rugby clubs combined to host the “Eighth Sometimes Annual Socorro Challenge” April 13 and although neither team managed a victory, from all other indications the nine-team tournament was a success.

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The Pygmies' Isaac Juarez tries to beat the tackle of a UNM player in Saturday's Socorro Challenge rugby tournament. The Lobos captured the men's championship while "Spirit of Rugby" honors went to the Pygmies.

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Queens freshman prop Lorena Vega proved a handful for both defenders and attackers throughout the Socorro Challenge. Her team played in the 3-team sevens competition.
Photos by William Colburn

            Good fortune shone on proceedings as the tournament followed by a few days a blustery cold front and was unmarred by Socorro’s usual springtime winds or the uncomfortable temperatures sure to come in succeeding weeks. A good crowd of spectators enjoyed bagpipe music, play-by-play commentary, curbside food service, and a full day of rugby played in ideal conditions.

            New Mexico State University’s Lady Chiles beat Albuquerque’s Atomic Sisters 10-5 and the host Queens 19-10 in the 7-player version of rugby, which is traditionally played with 15 to a side. The men’s 6-team division featured ten-a-side and was captured by the University of New Mexico Lobos in a sudden-death 24-21 overtime win over the New Mexico Brujos of Albuquerque.

            Billed as an old fashioned rugby tournament emphasizing the spirit of rugby, top honors went to those teams best displaying the combined characteristics of teamwork and sportsmanship. In a captains’ ballot taken immediately after the event’s final match the “Spirit of Rugby” awards were bestowed upon the Atomic Sisters and New Mexico Tech’s Pygmy Rugby Club. Tech graduate Mark Kelly was recognized as Best and Fairest Referee.

            Tech’s women played respectably but fell 15-0 in their first match against the Atomic Sisters, whose 15’s team perennially ranks highly in U.S. women’s rugby. They raised their game dramatically against tournament winners New Mexico State in an eventual 19-10 loss. Team leader Jade Horton and freshman sensation Cassie Coleman each scored five-point tries through the effervescent play of Michaela Rempkowski, Lisa Sanchez, Katie Trujillo, Lorena Vega, and Jessica Avila.

            In men’s round robin play UNM’s Lobos placed second in Pool A by bouncing back from a 33-24 first-round loss to Brujos RFC of Albuquerque with a 33-7 trouncing of Tech. They then defeated Pool B winners The Justice League, comprised primarily of former UNM players, by a 12-0 score.

            The Brujos’s road to the final was smoother with the opening win over UNM before the Pygmies bowed again by the same 33-7 score the Lobos had managed against the home team. The Brujos then smashed Pool B runners-up Horny Toads of Las Cruces 26-0 to advance to the championship match.

The Tech men were slightly unlucky to be in the same pool with what turned out to be the tournament’s two top teams. The consolation match between the bottom team from each pool provided small comfort as Santa Fe handed the Pygmies their third loss, 34-5.

            The men’s final fittingly turned into the day’s best match. UNM overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit to tie the game at the final whistle of regulation time, and completed the 24-21 coup over the stunned Brujos with a three-point penalty kick two minutes into a sudden-death overtime period.

            NMT Queen Cassie Coleman was named Most Valuable Player for her team and graduating senior Blaine Trujillo earned honors for the Pygmies.

            The Pygmies will seek revenge in Santa Fe this Saturday in a full 15-a-side match against the Santos. Both the Queens and Pygmies plan to compete in the Celtic Sevens Tournament at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park on May 18, one week after commencement activities at New Mexico Tech.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director