Herriman Girl Converts Rugby Talent
Sep 09, 2015 01:20PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Greg James
South Valley - Rugby opportunities abound for many female athletes around the United States. Just ask Herriman graduate Ashlee Byrge; she has been ascending to the pinnacle of rugby success.
As a teenage soccer player, she was looking for something more competitive, something a little more rough and tumble, and she found rugby.
“I watched my brother play rugby at Highland, and soccer was just not rough and tough enough for me. I decided to giverugby a try, and I was kind of good at it,” Byrge said.
Byrge graduated from Herriman High School in 2014 and has gone on to play at Davenport University in Minnesota. Davenport is one of the top women’s rugby programs in the United States. She has also had a tryout with the United States Olympic team.
She scored 176 points for the Panthers this past season, the second highest on the team. She also made 28 conversions. The Davenport women’s rugby team claimed its first ever national championship. They defeated Bloomsburg University by the score of 31-10 in the championship game. They finished the 2014-15 campaign with a 25-6 record overall.
In a game against Illinois State last November, Byrge scored 54 points in a rousing 111-0 Davenport victory.
Byrge is part of the main Olympic player pool. She could be added as an alternate for the Rio Olympic 2016 roster but feels her best chance is to participate in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. She also has a long resume of rugby playing experience. She is a two-time high school all-American and has been part of the U-21 National Team.
One of the difficult things she found in playing rugby was not knowing where to turn next and what opportunities were available for her. She presented a plan to Herriman High School girls about what opportunities she has found, and she even offered to help anyone that needed advice.
“No one ever told me where I could go or what to do. So I wanted to go back and talk to these girls about what was out there for them. I talked to them about what it takes to get into college and how to talk to a college coach. I also tried to tell them what schools have programs and what they offer, but most of all I tried to tell them all that if they needed help or had questions, I was available,” Byrge said.
Penn State is widely known as one of the best college rugby programs in the country. They were ranked first by USA Rugby much of the season. Many schools on the east coach offer varsity teams. At BYU and Utah,however, it is a club sport.
“Commitment is what makes Ashlee a good rugby player. She has the willingness to do whatever the game and teammates demand at whatever the cost. I did not know right away that she would turn out to be one of the best players in the country, but her extraordinary level of commitment and dedication to become a great player was immediately apparent,” Herriman girls head rugby coach Joe Hoff said. “She never missed a practice. She never did a drill half way. She was always thinking about the why of the drill and how she could be better. She was fearless in trying what she had been taught on the field.”
Hoff told of how she mastered kicking conversions with just two practices because of the time she spent working on what she had been taught.