For more than 30 years the High Desert Tournament has taken place in Albuquerque. Men’s and women’s college rugby teams from around the state, as well as surrounding states, gather to show off on the pitch.
The New Mexico Tech Lady Miners, a smaller club in the sport, connected with the New Mexico State Lady Aggies in order to compete against a much bigger program in the UNM Lady Lobos. The game was a dogfight as the Miners and Aggies refused to go away. The Lady Lobos were able to narrowly walk away with a 25-19 victory.
Miners coach Dunbar was running up and down the sidelines, coaching as well as on flag duty for the make-shift team. NMSU approached him to put together a women’s team for the event as both schools did not have enough players to compete. It was the first “15’s” tournament the Lady Miners have competed in.
“The numbers made perfect sense for us to come together,” Dunbar said. “I have a really great report with Justin (NMSU) and this event worked great for our girls. Seeing teams from all over the four corners come out to play rugby is always a lot of fun.”
NMSU and Tech only had one joint practice together prior to the game. Both coaches were unhappy on the sidelines during the game as unfamiliar teammates did not play as a cognizant unit. Several backwards passes as well as lost scrums gave the Lady Lobos opportunities to score.
Justin Karrenberg is the NMSU coach that initially got both schools involved in this event.
“It was just a phone call that made this happen,” he said. “Coach Dunbar and I knew we didn’t have enough members on our teams, but we wanted the players to be able to compete. We were able to put a team together and our ladies were able to get coaching by Mr. Dunbar and the Tech students could get coaching from myself. This is a great experience of collaborating between schools.”
Despite the loss, coach Dunbar was happy with the Aardvark’s sponsored event and looks to bring the Lady Miners rugby team toward nationwide success like the Tech men’s program.
“It’s great to see this group of athletes come together,” he said. “Being rugby, we don’t always get the best fields to play on. But this event always provides the best place to play. It’s great to see rugby going strong no matter the pitch. Our plan originally was to get the boy’s going first and now we want the girls to become an elite program. This is all part of the team model we hope to achieve.”