The Berkeley All Blues are heading to Nationals this weekend. For those that don’t know the All Blues are a powerhouse in Women’s rugby having secured 16 National Championships as well as a 7s National title! Unless you or your club can top 17 national titles, we suggest you read on.
The All Blues have been playing in the Women’s Premier League (WLP) since 2009 which makes them one of the top 8 women’s sides in the country. We were able to chat with some of the All Blues as they prepare for this weekend’s WPL National Championship. Here is our interview.
The Rugby Republic: What has fueled the All Blues success really for the past 7 years?
President Phoebe: The dedication of our athletes has been integral to our success. Year over year, our players have been super competitive. You don’t join the All Blues without the intention of playing the highest level of rugby possible – and striving to win every game. With 5 different head coaches over the last 7 years, we have depended on our players to step-up and be able to execute under different structures and with different strategies – always keeping the competitive spirit that has driven the All Blues for the last 37 years.
The Rugby Republic: Did you guys start the year with the goal of winning the Nationals or was there a more short term goal and build on those toward the national title?
Captain Bridget: We had the short term goal of making it to the top tier. We had a very competitive conference this year. We wanted to make sure we focused on the immediate need of getting the points we had to have to make it the semi-finals. We've accomplished this goal, and we have dedicated ourselves to a new goal: beating the Amazons. Rugby is a game of inches, and we've taken that approach to our season specific goals.
The Rugby Republic: Having a mix of veterans and younger players - how much is the past success going play a role in helping the confidence of the team going into Glendale?
Captain Bridget: We have a lot of experience on our team. Having this experience has helped us keep a level head. We know what's at stake, and we know what we need to do to win.
President Phoebe: We have 5 players from that initial year of the WPL (2009 – when we lost to NYRC in the finals) still involved with the team this year. Myself at flanker, Emily Peinert at prop and Ruth Bryson at fly-half will all be on the field this weekend - Julie Kieu (JQ) will serving as our Team Manager and Katie Chou (who now coaches our D2 side) will be cheering us on (having been sidelined due to injury). Having so many players who have been involved with the legacy of this club for over 7 years means a lot – most of the team has experience in high pressure games (especially after this season!) and we expect that experience to help us remain calm in the face of adversity and tough opponents.
The Rugby Republic: Going into the semifinal are you looking to adjust to the teams you will face, or will you just keep playing the game you have to now?
Captain Bridget: Katrina (Coach) has done a great job this season teaching us to think, play intentionally and see what's in front of us. We don't just want to react, we want to create. The team that steps on the field and can adjust to the game at hand, is the team who will come out on top. Yes, we will enter the game with the intent to play to our strengths, however, we also want to be opportunistic. We will play what is in front of us.
The Rugby Republic: How have you infused new players into the All Blues way of things? Also how have the All Blues recruited or engage younger girls to take up the game?
President Phoebe: There is always some turnover with each season, but we have been very lucky to continue to attract strong, talented, deeply competitive athletes. Our level of play has not dropped as new players have joined us – and they all seem to agree that our history of excellence should not falter on their watch. The All Blues are lucky enough to have a few great collegiate programs in our area (Stanford and Cal Berkeley) and we recruit heavily from those schools – but we are always looking for more players! Especially for our D2 season this spring!
The Rugby Republic: You ladies had a great run this summer for 7s being in the mix to the end, now in the mix again do you feel/think that staying active (going from the 7s into this season) helps stay/play at a high level?
Captain Jill: The persistence, perseverance, and hard work of the players during 7s season was a source of inspiration for our entire club and the success of our 7s team was due to an incredible amount of team cohesion. Our All Blues community took notice and that confidence in each other carries over into WPL season.
The Rugby Republic: If the All Blues win and bring the national title back (again) this year what impact can that have on women's rugby (including girls) on the area?
Coach Katrina: Hopefully all of the games this weekend will inspire future generations of women rugby players to continue to play the game and strive to play at the highest level. In fact, we hope that girls, boys, men and women alike tune in to watch the championships because we want to exhibit good rugby that is exciting and fun to watch. The ultimate goal is to create fans, future players, and grow the game in the Bay Area and beyond.
We want to thank the Berkeley All Blues for their time and help. If you want to follow them this weekend you can do it a few ways. The WPL games this weekend will be streamed by USA Rugby TV or you can follow them on Twitter @AllBluesRugby. These ladies prove that #HerRugbyCounts! Find us another club (men or women) who have the number of titles that the All Blues have or number of national team players, etc. We call on the ruggers of the California Republic to support the All Blues this weekend as they work to bring another title back to California and continue to demonstrate what we all believe (the top level rugby in the USA is in the Golden State). Good luck ladies!