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Four former Lady Warriors earn All-American rugby honors

 

Last updated 1/21/2018 at 10:45pm

Penn State athletics photo

Fallbrook High graduate Kayla Canett, now a sophomore at Penn State, is a first team selection by USA Rugby on the women's collegiate All-American teams.

USA Rugby placed four former Fallbrook High School players on the 2017 women's collegiate All-American teams.

Kayla Canett, who is now a sophomore at Penn State, was selected to the first team. The second team included Michel Navarro, who is now a Central Washington University sophomore, and Richelle Stephens, who is currently a sophomore at Lindenwood University in Missouri. Emma Workman, who is now a Brigham Young University junior, received honorable mention recognition.

"We're happy that they're doing well," said Fallbrook co-coach Craig Pinnell.

"It's exciting," said Fallbrook co-coach Marin Pinnell. "The girls that are playing in college, they're doing really well."

"I think it's a good indication that we're able to get the girls' rugby skills to where they'll continue their careers and flourish," Craig Pinnell said. "We can get players into that type of quality of rugby."

"The fact that Fallbrook has four players on last year's All-American list just represents the strength of their program," said Jonathan Atkinson, the women's development assistant for USA Rugby's college program. "They're consistently providing us some of the best players."

Stephens and Workman graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2015. Canett and Navarro are 2016 Fallbrook High School graduates.

Five Penn State players, including Canett, were placed on the All-American first team.

"That was pretty cool, and I was selected on the first team with a few of my teammates so it was pretty special," Canett said.

Canett was selected as a fullback even though that was not her primary position during the season. "I was pretty surprised about it," she said.

"For most of the season I played fly half," Canett said. "For the national championship game we wanted more speed on the field so we switched some people around."

"She worked so well at fullback," said Stephens, who played against Penn State in the Division I Elite final.

The Women's Division I Elite National Championship tournament consisting of the four schools which won their regional tournaments was played on the Life University field in Marietta, Georgia. Canett, Stephens, and Workman all played in that final four tournament.

In the May 5 semifinals Penn State took a 40-7 victory over BYU. Lindenwood defeated Life University in a 19-3 contest that day to advance to the final.

"That was awesome," Stephens said of playing in the championship game. "That was so fun."

The Penn State and Lindenwood victories pitted Canett against Stephens in the final.

"We got to play each other," Canett said. "It was cool getting to play against her."

"It was super fun to play against her," Stephens said. "It's a good friendly competition."

Stephens hasn't yet played against Navarro in college but she played against Workman as well as Canett. The members of Fallbrook High School's 2017 girls rugby team traveled to the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament the first weekend of March for seven-a-side competition, and the tournament also included 15-a-side college play in which Lindenwood defeated BYU in a 29-5 match.

"Playing my teammates from high school is so much fun," Workman said. "I miss playing with them."

Workman noted that former Fallbrook High School teammates get together after the games. "You still have that bond," she said. "I always look forward to it."

"It's like you're competing against each other yet cheering each other on," Stephens said. "You're trying to win, but it's good to see an old teammate doing well."

"They're so good," said Workman. "It's really cool to be able to play against them. It's an honor, I guess."

Penn State defeated Lindenwood in a 28-25 contest May 6 to win the championship, surviving a Lindenwood comeback which turned a 19-point deficit into a tie game.

"It was a pretty high pressure game," Stephens said.

"It was a really hard game," Canett said."We played the best we could have, but I was happy for Kayla and happy for Penn State," Stephens said.

"It was one of the closest games I've ever played in," Canett said. "Hearing the whistle was just a moment of relief and joy."

"We actually had the ball," Stephens said. "They got a good tackle."

Stephens doesn't expect the 2017 final to be the last competitive game involving Lindenwood and Penn State.

"It's going to be close for us as long as Kayla and I are playing," said Stephens.Brigham Young won the 37-36 third-place game against Life University that day.

Canett expressed appreciation to her coaches, teammates and family members for her season which led to All-American first team recognition. "All their support has made me into the player and person I am," she said.

Navarro is a flanker.

"It's a great thing, and I'm very happy for it," Navarro said of her All-American distinction. "I was pretty happy when I found out. I did not expect it."

Navarro explained that college rugby is a higher level of competition than high school.

"I think it went pretty well," she said of her 2016-17 freshman season. "I definitely think I improved a lot over the year. I had a lot of fun and am really grateful for the season."

Stephens plays fly half for Lindenwood. "I guess in college it's pretty cool to be recognized as an All-American," she said.

Lindenwood University athletics photo

Richelle Stephens, a sophomore at Lindenwood University in Missouri, earned honors as a second team selection on the women's collegiate All-American teams.

Although Stephens graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2015, she participated on the United States Olympic team, including play in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, and took semesters off from Lindenwood. Her first season with Lindenwood's rugby team was 2016-17, and she is currently a sophomore academically as well as athletically.

Workman plays center for BYU. "I would say it's an honor to be recognized with other players I respect a lot," she said of being an All-American. "It just helped me realize that all my hard work paid off."

The first team and second team had 15 players apiece with specific positions. The honorable mention list had a total of 18 players who whose positions were not specified.

"It was a good honor," Workman said.

Workman expressed appreciation to her coaches and also to her teammates for being able to achieve All-American recognition. "My teammates definitely made me better," she said.

 

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