Five Fallbrook girls play for Griffins in Great Northwest Challenge, Marin and Craig Pinnell coach

The Southern California Rugby Football Union’s Griffins all-star team which traveled to Oregon for the June 23-24 Great Northwest Challenge included three Fallbrook players on the varsity squad, two Fallbrook players on the junior varsity team, and two Fallbrook coaches.

The 21 girls on the varsity included Fallbrook players Destiny Arena, Naomi Collin, and Kim Mendoza. Collin was the varsity captain. The junior varsity team also had 21 girls including Fallbrook representatives Nathalie Celis and Abbey Savin; Savin was the vice-captain for the junior varsity squad and she also took the conversion kicks for the junior varsity Griffins.

Fallbrook Girls Rugby co-coach Marin Pinnell was the head coach for the Griffins and Fallbrook co-coach Craig Pinnell was the forwards coach for the varsity. Lisa Finegan of the ICEF (Inner City Education Foundation) club was the varsity backs coach. Talia Carrasquillo, who coaches the Cathedral Catholic program, was the junior varsity forwards coach. Coastal Dragons (Encinitas) coach Hannah Lockwood was the junior varsity backs coach.

“It was a good little coaching group. Everybody pulled together,” Craig Pinnell said.

The Great Northwest Challenge was played in Corvallis; although the matches themselves were at the Crystal Lake Sports Fields rather than on the Oregon State University campus, the players stayed in Oregon State dormitories and practiced on the university fields.

Craig Pinnell noted that the boys and girls were both at the same venue and that the dormitory situation allowed the players to socialize with each other. “It’s a good tournament in general,” he said.

USA Rugby limits youth players to 90 minutes each day. The junior varsity teams played two 45-minute games (utilizing 22 1/2-minute halves) June 23 and two 45-minute games June 24. The varsity played four 22 1/2-minute games June 23 and two 45-minute games June 24.

The junior varsity began play with a 29-19 loss to NorCal and concluded the first day with a 73-0 victory over Idaho. A 24-0 triumph against Oregon concluded the round-robin play and left the Griffins with a record of 2-1, which matched NorCal’s record. The Griffins and NorCal faced off in the championship game with NorCal prevailing in that 32-7 match and the Griffins settling for second place.

“They really came together quickly and loved playing with each other,” Craig Pinnell said.

The varsity began play with a 17-5 victory over Idaho. Collin had both a try and a conversion kick with ICEF players scoring the other two tries.

The Griffins then defeated Washington by a 12-5 score. Tri-City (Oceanside) and ICEF players scored the tries with Collin accounting for the conversion kick points. Game three was a 26-0 loss to Oregon and game four was a 24-0 NorCal victory.

The 2-2 record placed Fallbrook into the June 24 semifinal against NorCal, who won by a 33-17 score. Mendoza scored a try, Collin had a conversion kick, and the other two tries were scored by ICEF players.

“A much better performance against them,” Craig Pinnell said of the varsity’s second match against NorCal.

The Griffins defeated Idaho by an 80-5 margin in the third-place game. Collin had two tries and kicked 10 conversions and Mendoza had one try with the other tries being scored by Coastal Dragons, ICEF, Tri-City, Empire (based in Colton), and South Bay (based in Carson) players.

“It was a good tournament. It looks like the competition is definitely improving,” Marin Pinnell said.

“It took the group a little time to get going and come together,” Craig Pinnell said.

“They learned to play together over the course of the tournament,” Marin Pinnell said. “They fought hard and they finished well.”

Marin Pinnell noted that during the games her players applied the lessons stressed in practice. “They were a really good group to coach. They listened, they wanted to learn,” she said.

“I think everybody had a good time throughout,” Craig Pinnell said.

“We had an awesome group of young talent, and I am excited to develop them in the next few years,” Marin Pinnell said.

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