Youth Development Mentors: JJ Lupenui, Kevin Braithwaite, Denisse Zambon and Shamira Robles.

On the first weekend of June, the Play Rugby Academy teams competed at the Rugby NY State Championships at Binghamton University. A total of 16 Girls’ teams — including notable teams like Syracuse, City Honors and Corning — gathered from all over New York State. Despite the tough competition, the Academy/NYRC combined team won first place!

Denisse Zambon, one of the Youth Development Mentor of our current Academy/NYRC Girls team shared that “A lot of the girls were extremely excited and ready to play. Some of them had come to States with a PSAL [High School] Championship under their belt, which fueled their hunger for another one.”

However, the road to victory wasn’t guaranteed. Some of the girls were nervous about playing against teams they’d never seen before at States, but they were ready to tackle this new challenge. Their first game against Syracuse was “nerve-racking” according to Denisse. “I could see how hard they were fighting and giving their all.” She says that the Academy/NYRC team was victorious, because they had more refined skills than their opponent, who had more raw strength. On the second day, they faced a different kind of challenge — muddy terrain from the rain overnight — while facing off against the City Honors during finals. Nonetheless, Denisse proudly claims that “their composure and great attitude on the field helped them become State Champions.”

Our Girls team proudly display their winning trophy!

The last time the Academy Girls won the NY State Championship was in 2014 when Denisse was a player herself. Having been on the other side of the pitch, she knows how much commitment and dedication was required to win. “It made me so proud to see how much hard work they done to be able to get this far!” She proclaims, “It was such a honor to be able to help our kids… I didn’t want to be anywhere that weekend but with them at States.”

Both of our Girls & Boys teams fought with admirable determination and good spirits!

Truly, it’s been an honor for all of us. Congratulations to the girls for not only winning the Championship but successfully overcoming obstacle along the way with teamwork, passion and determination. We’re so proud of you!