USA Rugby announces 2016 Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS schedule

BOULDER, Colo. - Building on a highly successful first year in 2015, USA Rugby's Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS has expanded its schedule in 2016 to continue to grow the pool at the girls under-18 level, better prepare athletes for elite competition, and help accelerate these athletes' trajectory through the age-grade pathway. Looking ahead to the 2016 season, the GHSAAs will have an increased number of top-level match opportunities in both the 15- and seven-a-side games in the U.S. and on the international stage.

"We've put a solid foundation in place that encompasses skill development and game understanding as we continue to grow this program," GHSAA Head Coach Farrah Douglas said. "Our goal is to continue identifying the best players from around the country and put them in challenging situations to ensure they can improve and perform under pressure early and develop a comprehensive knowledge of the game. The women's game is growing exponentially both here at home and around the world, so as the entry point into the USA Rugby High Performance Pathway, this program couldn't be more important to the future success of the women's game in America."

Following East (Florida) and West (Arizona) camps in the winter of 2016, the GHSAA player pool will be finalized via the Regional Cup Tournaments and Stars and Stripes Camp in the summer. The camps will also introduce team principles and pathway skills to the athletes. Once the teams are selected, the 2016 GHSAA schedule highlights include the sevens team playing at the Vancouver Rugby Festival (March) and 15s developmental matches versus Quebec (July 26-31) and British Columbia (Aug. 2-7).

Both the 15s and sevens GHSAA teams had strong inaugural seasons in 2015, achieving all of the initial goals set forth for the first year of the program. The GHSAA program had two sevens teams compete at the Las Vegas Invitational U19 international competition, where one team went on to win the Cup and the other took the Plate. Later in the year, the 15s team traveled to British Columbia, Canada, to play two games against BC Rugby U18 Women's, coming home victorious from both games by large margins of 58-0 and 45-17. Nine athletes from the 2015 GHSAA team also had the opportunity to compete with USA Rugby's AIG Women's Junior All-Americans - the under-20 national team - in 15s victories over Canada.

"Our goals in 2016 are to increase the number of girls we see for GHSAA consideration and to grow the number of opportunities we have for those athletes," GHSAA Assistant Coach Emilie Bydwell said. "This program gives athletes the chance to make a jump into elite-level rugby, not only through competition but exposure to high performance education and skill development. We're giving the top high school athletes an opportunity to develop strong leadership and decision-making skills with their peers, while building their confidence to excel when they are moved up to the other age-grade programs or the Eagles Sevens program."

Once a player is part of the USA Rugby High Performance Pathway, athletes will have the opportunity to progress from the GHSAAs through to the AIG Women's Junior All-Americans and AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans, then the National All-Star Competitions to earn a spot with the Eagles in 15s and sevens, where they will compete in Rugby World Cups and Olympic Games.

Announced in late 2014, ATAVUS has supported the GHSAAs to ensure equitable opportunities in rugby for young women. ATAVUS will continue to sponsor the team's preparation and travel to play in elite tournaments across the U.S. and in select international competitions.

Players and coaches interested in learning more and applying for the GHSAAs should visit: https://form.jotform.com/50528892760968