Kahuku Girl's Rugby brings home NIT Championship
The Kahuku Girls Rugby team is just fresh off its third-straight state title win, and new this year, a national championship. The Red Raiders snatched up the crown for the High School National Invitational Tournament over Catholic Memorial just last month in Tennessee -- and the fiery finale made the championship win well worth the wait.
Kahuku's go-ahead score in the game's very last play sealed the deal for the 33-29 win.
But it's taken three years for Big Red to earn this big win, each year, dusting themselves off and coming back stronger.
"The semi-finals i knocked out during the game. I had a concussion in that game," says this year's tournament MVP, Taina Scott.
"On my way down, a girl's knee met my face, so. Yeah and i knocked out on the floor and then last thing I remember, I just opened my eyes and there's a bunch of people over me. But as soon as I got up, they just rested me until the next day and i was right back in the game."
It's no secret the faint of heart need not apply in the game of girls rugby, a full-contact sport with little to no protective gear.
But that doesn't faze these girls one bit.
"I get excited getting bruises after games, looking at all my bruises. I get excited, like, 'Oh, yes. Battle scars," says senior Nohea Uluave.
"It's weird how some rugby players brains are wired I guess,"
And summer break's providing no rest or time to let their wounds heal. Now three of the girls have been named All-Americans and will play for Team USA in the Under-18 tournament this summer.
The same three were named pre-season All-Americans back in January.
And with only five games played in 2018, the ladies had no idea this small sample would get them the nod -- again.
"Actually when I got the email, I thought it was spam," says senior Taylor "Tita" Marasco.
"And my coach told me to check it, so I double-checked."
Because the sport seems to come so natural for the local kids, Red Raiders head coach Nusi Tukuafu hopes rugby continues to grow in Hawaii.
"Rugby's not gonna be the number-one sport for girls, but it's another avenue. Especially the bigger, heavier girls. This is a natural sport for them," he says.
And this trio could be the ambassadors leading the charge.
"It was heartwarming because i noticed a lot of the kids were looking up to us, and i realized how much doors we opened for our community," says Uluave.
The Can-Am Rugby Tournament gets going on July 24th in Lake Placid, New York.