Mira Costa boys rugby team facing a challenging season; girls program grows
by Randy Angel
This season has been a turnaround year for Mira Costa’s boys rugby team, but not in a positive way.
Playing a much tougher schedule, this season’s Mustang squad is also depleted with less than a handful of football players coming out to compete for the team.
“This has been a very difficult year,” Coach Duke Dulgarian said. “For some reason we have only a couple of footballers come out. Since our first year we have averaged about 42 boys…this year we have only 28. I am at a complete loss as to why.”
Mira Costa has had to cancel its Junior Varsity program as a result of the lack of numbers. The rugby program has had great success in previous years, with two players receiving athletic scholarships and many others now playing at the college level. A few former Mustangs have also played for US national teams.
“The situation is indeed a shame,” Dulgarian added. “On top of all of that we are going on our annual Las Vegas 7s trip (Feb. 28 – Mar. 1) which the boys love to play in and we are traveling to Wales (Mar. 20 – Apr. 7) to play three matches out there. The irony of all ironies is that one of my assistant coaches is Harrison Morrow, the youngest son of Mira Costa head football coach Don Morrow.”
Mira Costa, along with Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), broke away from their old league which was focused more on club rugby and also allowed “blended” teams (basically 60 percent from one school and 40 percent from anywhere else).
Unlike Mira Costa, however, Cathedral has numerous players who were members of its CIF Southern California Regional Division 1AA championship team. The Dons went 12-2 on the season, defeating Narbonne 24-21 before losing to Folsom 21-14 in overtime in the State Championship game.
The new rugby league is made up of 100 percent high schools and includes a Northern California champion, so there will be an actual State Champion.
“Our league itself is made up of the top rugby schools in Southern California,” Dulgarian said. “We don’t have any walkovers because each week our boys play the best of the best.”
On Jan. 12, Mira Costa hosted the powerful Cathedral squad but was outmanned, not to mention, outweighed.
Costa’s front row weighed a combined 595 pounds compared to the Dons’ 980 pounds. Nevertheless, the Mustangs played some extremely tough and very spirited rugby.
Trailing only 14-0 at halftime, Mira Costa began to wear down in the second half, finally dropping the game by a score of 40-0.
It was the first time the Mustangs had been shutout in a match against a non-international team and only the second time in their history.
Mira Costa boys will take time to regroup before traveling to take on host St. John Bosco, Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. The Mustangs will hold their Senior Night when they host La Costa Canyon on Feb. 9, then travel south to take on Torrey Pines (San Diego) on Feb. 16.
A bright spot of Mira Costa’s season came Dec. 22 when the Mustangs traveled to face Fallbrook.
Despite having only one reserve player, the Mustangs ran the Warriors ragged beginning when Austin Tiradeau scored 10 minutes into the match with Evan Anderson adding the conversion.
Four minutes later, outside center Slade Gordon sprinted 42 meters for the score with Anderson converting.
Anderson, who was named Man of the Match, scored from 43 meters out five minutes later then made the conversion.
Drew Brumley added an 8-meter try and the Mustangs took a 28-5 lead into halftime.
Tomy Undurraga opened the second half with a smart 8 meter drive. Forward Captain and Hooker Luke Mohr found the Try Zone off another successful drive.
It was fitting that Anderson played a key role on the final play of the match. He took a penalty on the 6-meter line and kicked the ball across and backwards into the waiting arms of Underagga who dove in to make the final score 50-12.
“Much of the Mustangs’ success was a result of Anderson’s foot as he was able to consistently put the Warriors in a hole with his kicking,” Dulgarian said.
Lady Mustangs roll on
The Mira Costa Lady Ruggers traveled to Cathedral Catholic to take on the Dons as well as San Marcos and Patrick Henry High Schools.
The first match was a seesaw affair but in the end the difference was a lone conversion as the Dons edged the Mustangs 10-12.
The second match of the day was against a skilled San Marcos team who won handily despite the hard effort of Mira Costa.
The final match of the day saw the Mustangs take on Patrick Henry High School. The Costa Girls finished the day in style as they handled the Patriots for a win.
“The girls have been playing some great rugby,” Coach Ali Taylor said. “They have become great tacklers and are rapidly becoming one of the top teams in Southern California.”
Mira Costa’s girls squad opened the season on Jan. 4 by going 3-0 in matches held at View Park. Despite traveling with only eight players and occasionally playing with only five, the Lady Mustangs relied on their speed and physical tackling.
The Mustangs began the day with a 26-7 victory against the host school. Taiana Fonua opened the scoring followed by Ashley Brownsberger. Cecelia Morriss opened the second half with a score.
The next game, against Lakewood, was a thriller after Costa opened the scoring with a Tru by Morriss.
Trailing 12-5 at halftime, Costa opened the second half when Brownsberger picked up a loose ball and rambled 61 meters to tie the match.
Following a Lancer score and trailing 17-12 with time running out, Costa’s defense forced a fumble and returned it 24 meters for the score. The conversion gave the Mustangs a 19-17 victory.
In the final game of the day, Costa once again faced View Park. With both teams exhausted, the match was shortened due to time constraints with the Mustangs leading 19-15.
It was truly a team effort with Sienna Negrinelli, Emily Guerra and Alyssa Boras doing much of the tackling and rucking.
“Senior Ashley Brownsberger, who competed in the Junior Touch Rugby World Cup in Malaysia in August, is a speedster who enjoys the hitting and tackling of the sport,” Taylor said. “Junior Sophia Vaughan is committed and dedicated and one tough cookie. Her nickname is Princess and all pun intended, is also a master baker of cookies and cupcakes She enjoys the physicality and the sisterhood Rugby provides and is also a huge football fan.”
Coach Taylor began playing rugby her senior year at Ursaline High School in Santa Rosa winning the state championship.
After coaching the Mira Costa boys squad. she is excited about the girls program.
“Sports are suppose to be fun,” Taylor said. “Rugby is a game and in that game/team environment I want my student athletes to learn life lessons of commitment dedication and mental toughness, to not be afraid of a challenge but to take it head on.”
The Lady Mustangs travel to take on Los Alamitos on Friday then will play at Lakewood on Saturday, Jan. 26.