Seniors on local rugby team tackle college

Dhanush Patel, Staff Writer

Rugby? You mean football?

Rugby, for the uninitiated, is a football-like game where ball-passing and goal-making is involved. But the ball is always passed backwards and the goals made are called tries.

For the girls at our school who participate in rugby daily, it’s more than a game, it’s a lifestyle.

The 15 Grizzly girls on the Danville Lady Oaks team are proud to say that with the level of time and effort they have put in, the team has become second in the whole nation as part of the USA Rugby Girls High School organization.

But the girls aren’t content with being just second. As such, they went to nationals on May 16 to compete for the chance to earn the coveted top ranking.

At nationals, the team did well, winning their first game 65-5, but losing their second one 25-5. Fortunately, the team came back the third game and crushed their opponent 40-0.

Despite the 2-1 win-loss record, the team ended up being knocked down to third place at the tournament due to what senior sisters Anndamann and Tonga Lata claim to be politics at the national level of the organization.

The team’s coach disagrees over the reason for losing one game however.

“We just didn’t bring our A game because we were confident after beating that team before,” said coach Pasimi Hingano.

Nonetheless, the girls have taken their overall loss in stride.

“Personally, I’m happy with our outcome because it can teach the underclassmen it takes time and patience and experience to become better and where they want to be,” said Anndamann Lata.

Other teammates also echoed similar sentiments.

“Success is gradual because we made our team three years ago and quickly we got to nationals,” Tonga Lata said.  “We got from fifth last year to third this year at nationals, and so I believe we’ll do better in the future.”

With the optimistic attitude come words of advice from other girls on the team.

“Even if you’re tired, keep pushing, because the outcome will be worth it,” said senior Dana Higbee.

The team started four years ago when the Lata’s cousins played for the Pleasanton team but their uncle, Pasimi Hingano, was requested by the team to start a separate girl’s team.

Thus, he started a brand new team three years ago, originally consisting of just a bunch of relatives that amounted to a seven-player team. This number quickly grew, however, as these initial girls performed well and more wanted to join them from all over the Bay Area.

The girls on the Lady Oaks have a long history of playing rugby well in high school, and many of their players plan on continuing to play in college. In fact, the reason the Latas cited for playing in the first place was to be noticed by colleges.

The recognition has certainly come, and most of the senior girls on the team have received scholarship offers from multiple universities, such as Lindenwood University and Central Washington University.

“Senior Mata Hingano has even gotten offers from Harvard and Stanford,” said Pasimi Hingano.

What is more surprising than receiving numerous offers from top colleges is the fact that some the girls on the team have turned them down.

For instance, the Lata sisters have opted to attend Brigham Young University (BYU), a university with a highly ranked rugby program, despite the fact that it did not offer them a scholarship at all.

The Lata sisters said they are attending BYU because of religious reasons.

“We are Mormon and religion is a big part of our lives,” Tonga Lata said. “We plan on going on missions, and we feel that because BYU is religious, it will be more understanding of us returning to rugby after them.”

But getting to this point hasn’t been easy for the team, as the members have had to make personal sacrifices, such as skipping church on Sundays to letting go of quality time with friends and family.

The time spent away from non-rugby activities is not a choice, but a necessity, as the team meets four times a week, with three days dedicated to training. All the practice that the team has been noticed by attendees at their games.

“Rugby is a rough sport, and so I am really impressed at their skill level and how tough they are,” said math teacher Janet Saiki, who has attended several of their games. “It definitely seems like they have practiced a lot.”

The Latas won’t be taking a break from this swamped schedule of theirs anytime soon with their hopes to play on All-Stars and then even on All-American, the state and national level of the organization respectively, in the coming months.

With all the work that the players have to put in to be successful, they seem to be motivated to go on. Both the Latas agree that it is an exhilarating sport that has become second nature to them.