As Berkshire club finishes run in high school girls rugby nationals, organizers stress safety


PITTSFIELD -- Playing in the seventh-place game, the Berkshire United girls rugby team finished its final day at the High School Girls National Championships locked in a defensive battle. Berkshire held the New York Rugby Club to just one try during the game, but the offense struggled in a 5-0 loss.

At times, the game became chippy, with some extra-curricular shoving and questionable tackling techniques.

For referees such as Pat Laczkowski, it's important for them to take control and maintain order within the match. In a fast-paced game, with bodies and piles flying around, Laczkowski said it's key for a referee -- also known as ‘the sir' -- to stay calm.

"We stay focused with a lot of training and a lot of experience," he said. "The more comfortable you are, the more calm you'll be."

To someone unfamiliar with rugby, it could be unclear what role a referee plays in the game. Other than starting and stopping play, there are specific things that referees look for when officiating.

"Anything that is going to be unsafe, we'll blow the whistle very quickly," Laczkowski said. "Our goal is not to call penalties, but we'll call penalties in order to keep the game flowing."

In its game against New York, Berkshire had several stoppages in play due to an injured player. No one was seriously injured, though, and all but one player returned to the game.

Berkshire United coach and tournament director Dave Colli said there are specific rules in place for tournament-style play to ensure safety. The length of each game is cut in half, from two 45-minute halves to two 22:30 halves. Colli said the International Rugby Board allows for only 90 minutes of rugby per day for athletes younger than 18.

During the tournament, Colli said the most serious injuries suffered were a broken collarbone and broken nose.

"Mistakes happen when you're tired," he said. "Other sports like wrestling have limits to the amount of matches you can play in a day.

"Considering we had 24 teams play three matches during the weekend ... You'd have the same amount of injuries playing basketball or football."

When games get chippy or after taking a big hit, Berkshire's Mya Eugene relies on her teammates to keep her focused.

"You've got to push through it, pop up and push, push, push," she said. "My team's a family, it's awesome. I feel like I'm on the best team ever."

Along with Eugene, Bridget Lucy and Julie Doucette made strong tackles during the match. Haley Korte and Desaraye Conaway added several long runs as well.

After the match, Rachael Ndiembolio, Korte, Lucy and Doucette were named to the Division II All-Tournament team.

To reach Akeem Glaspie:,
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On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.


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