With about a month remaining in the Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association/Guam Rugby Union season, teams are leveling up, getting their hits in and breaking into the try zone as the postseason approaches.

On Saturday, in Dededo, at a packed Wettengel Rugby Field, girls varsity highlighted play with a few of the usual favorites garnering multiple wins, an up-and-coming squad delivering spectacular performances, and a couple of the lower-ranked teams gaining valuable experience.

On the winning end of their games, the defending champion Notre Dame High School Royals, Academy of Our Lady of Guam Cougars and Southern High School Dolphins each won both of their games. The Guam High School Panthers and the Simon Sanchez High School Sharks each walked away with one win and a loss, whereas the George Washington High School Geckos, the Tiyan High School Titans and the Okkodo High School Bulldogs finished the day empty-handed. The Geckos are experiencing midseason small-roster woes. Fueled by injury, the once mighty purple forfeited both of their games.

In the day's most competitive match, the last game of the day, the Dolphins defeated the Sharks 12-7.

“That dub, today, meant a lot because we all worked really hard,” said Dolphins' Skylar Nangauta. “It was hot. We were all tired, but we knew that all we had to do was push through and get that W for our school.”

The Sharks’ Auriana Merfalen, in the first half, struck first, bolting down the left sideline 60 meters and diving into the try zone. Plumeria Redila tacked on the 2-point conversion.

The Dolphins trailed 7-0 but never gave up hope. In the second half, Nangauta scored two tries, including the game-winner.

In the first half, the Dolphins were unable to contain the Sharks and their offense struggled. Fundamentals were lacking, but a sharper, more determined Dolphins returned in the second half with newfound focus and calmed nerves.

“We noticed that we were making a bunch of mistakes,” said Nangauta, a 15-year-old sophomore. “The best thing to do was to push through and finish the game, how we usually do, finish off strong.”

Early in the second half, Nangauta’s props and backs absorbed the punishment and passed her the ball. Without her teammates’ dogged determination and refuse-to-lose attitude, Nangauta’s tries would not have been possible.

About 60 meters away from the goal, Nangauta received a pass and ran down the right sideline for her first try. Celine Topasna tacked on the game-tying 2-point conversion.

“My props and my backs were the ones handing it to me,” Nangauta said. “They’re the ones taking all the hits and swinging it out. My lungs were hurting after I ran all of that.”

Later in the half, the Sharks’ defense held strong but was unable to stop Nangauta and the advancing Dolphins.

“We worked really hard to get that try,” said Nangauta, adding that “it was a big relief on us.”

“They're (Sanchez) a really good team. Props to them. It’s hard to beat them, to be honest,” added Nangauta.

Academy is a real contender

It has been a few years since the Cougars assembled a championship-caliber squad, but this year is different. This year, they are in the mix. 

Last Wednesday, at Guam High, Academy did something no other team has been able to in three years - beat the Royals.

"Before the ND game, we were all scared,” said Cougars back Mia Topasna. “We were all terrified because they were undefeated.”

Academy, after the game, emerged as a different team.

“Every fear of us playing just went away and we all got the confidence we needed,” Mia Topasna said.

“What a cracker of a game,” said Cougars head coach Tony Costa. “They were on a three-year winning streak and it came to an end. I’m super proud of my team for bringing it to them. Man, what a game! That had to be the game of the season! I don’t know if we can get another game like that!”

The Cougars banked that emotional energy and unloaded it onto the Bulldogs and the Titans. In Academy’s first of two games, they defeated Okkodo 17-7. In their second match, they blanked the Titans 26-0.

Against Okkodo, Academy’s Mia Topasna scored tries, Serenity Sulla scored one try and Caitlin Murphy added a 2-pointer.

In Academy’s second game, Mia Topasna and teammate Kylee Reyes each scored two tries. Amber Fernandez drilled three 2-point conversions. 

“For some reason, I just pushed. I wanted to score,” said Mia Topasna, a 16-year-old junior.

From Tiyan’s opening kickoff, they struggled. The game-starting boot carried about seven meters, which Reyes scooped up and ran for a try.

“When I scored that, it was, like, ‘OK, I’ve got this. I’ve got this,’” Reyes told herself.

Athletic Panthers run over Bulldogs

After falling to the Royals 27-5 in their opening match, the Panthers regrouped against the Bulldogs, beating Okkodo 25-10.

“We only have three returnees to rugby,” said Cirie Hawkins, a 16-year-old sophomore. “I feel like we're doing good and we're really proud that we got a score on the board with ND. I'm really proud of my team."

With five different Panthers each scoring tries, the fast-a-foot Panthers exercised nearly every scoring option. Tierra Hearn, Hawkins, Petrini Blas, Geneva Gumabon and Keilani Baird scored one try apiece.

Hawkins, who scored the Panthers’ second try, thanked teammate Jordan Ellis for swinging her the ball.

Hawkins also shared with the Post that she loves rugby and feeds off the crowd’s energy.

“I love to tackle. I love getting in there and hearing the crowd go ‘Ooh’ when I take someone down,” Hawkins said. “I really love the family that my team has.”

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