ROXBURY, NJ – For three girls from Roxbury who recently played rugby in Las Vegas, what happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas. Not if they have anything to say about it.
The girls, Kat Ramage, Alie Ramage and Jess Nagie, want everybody to know that rugby is a great sport for females, especially those who don’t mind a game where they're likely to their knees and elbows dirty.
Nagie and the Ramage sisters returned from a weekend playing in the Las Vegas Invitational rugby tournament (the largest amateur rugby tournament in North America) not only proud of their achievements but enthused about the future of the sport for girls.
“There was a lot of pressure going into this tournament,” said Kat Ramage, a 17-year-old whose love of the game propelled her to playing for the USA in China as a youth Olympian. In Vegas, she played on the inaugural USA Girls High School All-American Team.
“We were representing female high school rugby players from around the country, not just the 12 of us on the field,” Kat said. “We needed to show that girls rugby in the U.S. is growing and is a ‘force to be reckoned with.’”
The growth of the sport for girls is evidenced by the number of teams that played in Las Vegas, she said. There were eight teams in the International Elite high school division and 24 in the high school open division while last year there were only 14 high school girls teams total, noted Kat.
Kat’s team won the tournament with a record of 6-0 and outscored its opponents 204 to 27, according to her mother, Diane Ramage.
Her younger sister, a Roxbury High School freshman, joined with Nagie, a Roxbury sophomore, on a team called Atlantis U16. Diane Ramage said the team was one of the “surprises of the tournament” because it did so well against teams whose players were at least three years, and up to five years, older.
“When the Las Vegas Invitational announced they were adding a U16 bracket for boys and girls this year, Atlantis jumped at the chance to field a team of young up-and-comers,” said Diane. “Unfortunately, not many others did and only four girls teams registered. Instead of turning them away, the U16 teams were given the option of moving up to play in the U19 division or allowed to back out of the tournament.”
She said three of the four backed out, “but Atlantis knew they had strong talent” and decided to take on the challenge. Diane Ramage said the young girls “proved themselves” by finishing with a 4-2 record. “These girls have a lot of rugby ahead of them and are all looking forward to playing in Vegas again,” she said.
Alie Ramage said the weekend was “the best” tournament she ever attended. “From playing with such an amazing group of girls from around the country to beating the odds and defeating teams with much more experience, not to mention three to four years older, it was an experience I won’t forget,” she said, adding that the U16 became the “talk of the tournament” because of its gutsy play against older girls.
Her feelings were echoed by Nagie, who called the Vegas trip “one of the best experiences of my entire life.” She said she was initially fearful the team would lose every game against the U19 squads. “But after winning our first game by a landslide, I felt more confident than I ever had,” said Nagie. “We became such a cohesive team in such a short amount of time and that still amazes me. I really hope I get to go back again next year and experience it all over again.”