On June 17, the annual Quad-State All Star Tournament for High School youths was held at the landmark Memorial Fields in Mt. Vernon.
Select-side teams from NJ, PA, NY, and CT came to duke it out for the title of the Northeast’s All Star Champions. The event was hosted by the Major League Rugby NY Ironworkers.
In the Boys Division, two players from Greenwich High School made pivotal performances on the field: Segundo Mas, selected as captain of the All Star team, and Benja Thompson, selected as MVP of the tournament for his decisive play as halfback.
In the Girls Division, Greenwich Girls Captain Lara Olmsted led the team to a 36-19 victory over PA.
After the game, Olmsted commented, “It was really great to meet everyone from all over the state, especially since we only get to see them as opponents from across the field during the regular season. And I’m tremendously proud of how we played together. We passed the ball very effectively down the backline to the wings, creating openings for us to shoot to the tryzone. I think Greenwich really showed up and represented our state.”
The Greenwich Boys carried this early victory into the Boys Division: “I credit our success to team chemistry and high spirits,” commented MVP Benja Thompson. “My favorite part of the tournament was meeting everyone from all of the different teams; we all got along really well… Against the PA team we had an early try, and we collectively used that momentum to keep the pedal to the metal!”
There was certainly a great deal of momentum, as the CT team beat PA 62-5. Later that day, the Greenwich boys moved onto the finals as an unstoppable force, finishing with a 2-0 record after beating NY for the Championship title 29-5.
“The team was incredibly skilled – we had a team of big and fast guys, and we utilized our speed in the back with hard runners,” said Captain Segundo Mas. “Our backs also played phenomenal defense. I don’t think we missed a single tackle the whole day.”
Speaking on the experience of the day, Mas said, “The best part by far was getting to meet all the different people on the team. I think we were so strong together because a lot of us clicked instantly, and we let our personalities and skills translate onto the field in a positive way.”
Six more players from Greenwich were essential to the CT All Stars teams’ success: on the Boys side, seniors Ignacio Piccione, Noah Herman, Victor Bejarano, and Anthony Barallon; on the Girls side, Vera Zibilich and Nixmary Rivera-Alves.
Also from Greenwich, Head Coach Laczowski, the assistant coach for Boy’s Rugby at GHS, was a critical part in the team’s victories over their tough opponents. After only one practice, he was able to glue the team together as if they had been playing together for their whole life. Asked about his success at the tournament, Laczowski replied, “Connecticut Rugby outclassed the competition – I think we have a great group of athletes who are truly passionate about playing rugby at the highest level. That’s one of the things with having limited practice time: my guys know they’re there to compete and win, so I trust in them to work it out between themselves.”
Laczowski specified that, during his training and selection process, he prioritized picking the best defensive players from the High School league, building the rest of his team around this strong foundation. His priority for defense most certainly worked, as Connecticut’s opposing teams never even managed to score more than five points.
“[This year’s team was] a great group of kids. And what’s special about this [event] is that, as you climb up the competitive ladder, you meet more and more like-minded people who are there to compete at the highest level just like you. I know firsthand, especially at the regional and national youth levels, that my players are going to meet friends for life – most likely they’ll be playing rugby on the same field again down the road, whether that’s at the collegiate or men’s club level. It’s really great to see the power of rugby bringing people together like this.”
Joe Kelly said, “As president of Connecticut Rugby, and as the former Head Coach for Greenwich Rugby, I am immensely proud of our players and our coaches. In both the Boys and Girls Divisions, we defended our All Star Championship titles brilliantly, with critical performances from Greenwich players. I am pleased to say that Greenwich continues to lead Connecticut Rugby towards the top of competition year in and year out.”