CPC Featured Player: Florence Gomez

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname/s): Florence Gomez (Too many nicknames to name)

Hometown: Yigo, Guam
Position(s) played: Center, Back Three

  Flo on the attack in a WPL match last season versus ORSU.  Photo modified from Mark Gordon Murray

Flo on the attack in a WPL match last season versus ORSU.  Photo modified from Mark Gordon Murray

All Blues: When and how did you first start playing rugby? What got you into it?

Florence: I was a late bloomer. I just started playing about four years ago, when I reached my dirty thirties. I was approached while out with my roommate by a rugger, not knowing that my roommate had played in college. She convinced me to check out one practice and I instantly fell in love.

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AB: Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

F: I’ve been playing sports since the age of four. My first sport was track, I’ve tried to play just about every sport they offered in schools but basketball and fast pitch softball where the only ones I stuck with. I ended up playing for a traveling softball team in the Navy after high school. Now rugby is the only sport I play.

  Cottontown 7s Champions! Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

Cottontown 7s Champions! Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

AB: Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby? 

F: When I play I just think about having fun, when you stop having fun you lose the love for playing.
 


AB: How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

F: The All Blues are known nationwide; I’ve always heard good things about this team. I wasn’t sure what team I was going to play with when I moved to Berkeley. I decided to check out each team and choose from there but after one practice with the ABs I knew this is where I wanted to be. I loved the environment and the team was extremely welcoming.
 

  Flo with some fellow All Blues at an after match social in Santa Rosa. Photo credit: Victoria Abrenica

Flo with some fellow All Blues at an after match social in Santa Rosa. Photo credit: Victoria Abrenica

AB: Is there a particular player and/or coach that has influenced your development as a player? In what way(s) did they help you?

F: My first vet Kelly Sager is probably the most influential person. My first year playing we didn’t have a coach and I was the only rookie. She took me under her wing and taught me the game--mostly the rules and how to use them to my advantage.

  Flo with her vet, Kelly Sager, at the Chattanooga Pitch A Tent 7s Tournament. Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

Flo with her vet, Kelly Sager, at the Chattanooga Pitch A Tent 7s Tournament. Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez


AB: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

F: The best advice I’ve ever received is that I have more time than I think.
 

AB: Any other fun facts about yourself you’d like to share with us?

F: I am a sock enthusiast, I own a lot of socks lol.

CPC Featured Player Q&A: Ceara Lafferty

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Ceara “8Foot” Lafferty

Hometown: Rome, Italy
Position(s) played: Lock, 8

All Blues since: 7s since 2016, 15s since this season

  8Foot fending off an opponent for Cal. Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

8Foot fending off an opponent for Cal. Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

All Blues: When and how did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

8Foot: I’ve been playing team sports for most of my life and have loved every minute of it, so when I decided that I wanted to go to Cal, my dad had a feeling I would want to continue pursuing that passion. He discovered that Cal had a club rugby team and, to be honest, I was really skeptical of it when he first mentioned it. When I was recruited by a rugby player during my first week as a freshman, my skepticism turned into curiosity and I decided to dive in headfirst to a rugby practice. I was brought there by a hunch and stayed because of the strength and empowerment I feel every time I’m on the pitch, and because of the open-minded people that make up the rugby community.

  8Foot and the Cal Babies. Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

8Foot and the Cal Babies. Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

AB: Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

8’: I played varsity basketball, soccer, and volleyball all throughout high school. I thought I would be dedicated to being a baller forever, but I found rugby and never looked back.

 

AB: How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

8’: I found out through the Cal to All Blues pipeline! It’s a real thing.

 Rugby strong! A skills break led to some shenanigans from the forwards. Photo modified from the All Blues Rugby Instagram (@allbluesrugby)

Rugby strong! A skills break led to some shenanigans from the forwards. Photo modified from the All Blues Rugby Instagram (@allbluesrugby)

AB: What’s your most memorable time thus far with the All Blues?

8’: I’m sure this sounds hella cheesy, but honestly, every moment spent with the All Blues is better than the last. This team has made me feel so welcomed and loved and valued and it means so much coming from a group of such amazing and talented individuals. [When we first had that double header this season], I played in both the D2 game against the Amazons and the WPL game against Life West and I truly did not know if I was going to make it through the last 10 minutes of the WPL game. My motivation came from the communication and positive attitudes of the people playing next to me, telling me that I could push through. I was able to put work in on the pitch until the final whistle because my teammates believed in me.

  8Foot on the attack at a game vs. Santa Rosa.  Photo: Kyra Trowbridge

8Foot on the attack at a game vs. Santa Rosa.  Photo: Kyra Trowbridge

AB: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

8’: There are two pieces of advice that I always carry with me on the pitch. The first comes from a fellow All Blue, friend, and rugby philosopher, Frieda Fetuu: always stay humble. The second piece of advice was said to me by Mari Triplett, an All Blue and former coach of mine. When she was coaching at Cal, she would always say, “Saw your leg off!” That was her way of telling us to do WHATEVER it takes to do what needs to be done. Saw your leg off for the ball, for the scrum, and most importantly, for your teammates. I value both of these pieces of wisdom not only because they came from women I respect immensely, but because they remind me that I play not only for my teammates, but for all of the women who have come before me and will come after me.

  Seriously, that fend though! Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

Seriously, that fend though! Photo courtesy of Ceara Lafferty

AB: What skills are you working on/would like to work on right now?

8’: I’m really working on trying to be a vocal leader. The fact that so many of the All Blues are great leaders has made that a lot easier.

 

AB: What is your favorite non-rugby activity? Do you have any passions besides rugby?

8’: It kind of seems like my whole life revolves around rugby sometimes, but I swear I enjoy doing other things too. I’m super passionate about music. I love to sing, play guitar, go to concerts, and discover new music. I also am trying to get into photography! I also adore food: cooking it, learning about it, watching shows about it, and, most of all, eating it. I’m into exploring too, especially in new cities and the outdoors. 

 

AB: Any other fun facts about yourself you’d like to share with us?

8’: I lived in Rome, Italy for 5 years. That’s where I went to high school and it’s the longest I stayed in one place while growing up. Also, if you didn’t know already, I’m 8 feet tall.

CPC Featured Player Q&A: Serena Liu

Serena started playing for the All Blues in fall 2016, and has played every season with us ever since. She currently serves as as one of three co-captains this spring D2 developmental season. According to Theo Bennett, last season’s WPL coach, Serena “loves to train and is highly intelligent…[and] has the ability to take controlled risks.” Both he and current D2 head coach Evan Hoese noted her “high work ethic” and “constant commitment to improvement.” Towards the latter quality, Hoese said that Serena is “always looking for meaningful feedback...extra sessions of skills and fitness outside of practice...and always takes ownership of her responsibilities and ways she can grow.” As a leader Serena inspires her teammates by both pushing herself and them; her belief in and care of the team is “palpable.”

 

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Serena Liu

Hometown: Brea, CA
Position(s) played: Fullback, Wing, Outside Center, Flyhalf

 Serena Liu proudly displaying the All Blues jersey.  Photo: Victoria Abrenica

Serena Liu proudly displaying the All Blues jersey.  Photo: Victoria Abrenica

All Blues: Did you play any sports prior to rugby? When and how did you first start playing rugby? 

Serena: I played soccer and ran track in high school. I wanted to join a club team in college and there weren’t many to choose from. My boyfriend at the time played rugby and encouraged me to try it out. I was immediately hooked! 

 

AB: Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby? Thinking about a game you thought went really well for you, how did you get your mind and body ready for that match?

S: I think that it is really important to have a growth mindset and always be willing to learn new things but also continue to work on mastering the basics. I’m still trying new things and working on figuring out what works best for me in regards to a pre-match routine for games.

 Serena played for the University of Hartford in Connecticut during all her four years of undergrad. Photo courtesy of Serena Liu

Serena played for the University of Hartford in Connecticut during all her four years of undergrad. Photo courtesy of Serena Liu

AB: How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

S: After taking a few years off rugby after I graduated from undergrad, I wanted to get back into rugby and have also always wanted to live in the Bay Area… so I moved out here at the end of 2016 and joined the team. One of the best decisions I’ve made!

 Serena with the D2 team, spring 2017. 

Serena with the D2 team, spring 2017. 

AB: Is there a particular player and/or coach that has influenced your development as a player?  In what way(s) did they help you?

S: I would have to say that I’m still pretty new to the sport and have a lot left to learn. I think all the coaches I have had have influenced me in different ways. Rugby is definitely a sport that can teach you a lot about yourself and life in general. There is a lot of carryover to the real world.

 

AB: Most memorable time with the All Blues?

S: The most memorable times are the ones where you get to know your teammates off the pitch… I’ll just leave it at that.

 All smiles! Photo: Victoria Abrenica

All smiles! Photo: Victoria Abrenica

AB: What skills are you working on/would like to work on right now?

S: Right now I’m really working on improving my defensive skills; working on improving my tackling technique and being able to read the game quicker when on defense. And you know I’m always working on my chip kicks and grubbers…

 Serena doing the kick off during a 2017 summer 7s tournament in Marin. Photo: Victoria Abrenica 

Serena doing the kick off during a 2017 summer 7s tournament in Marin. Photo: Victoria Abrenica 

AB: What is your favorite non-rugby activity? Do you have any passions besides rugby?

S: Does Sunday Touch count as a non-rugby activity with East Bay Vintage Rugby? Haha, but I do love to be outdoors in nature and I think the Bay Area is a great place for that. I love to surf and snowboard and don’t do it enough because of rugby, but I’m okay with that. Oh, and also eating. I love to eat.

CPC Featured Player Q&A: Christina Ramos

Christina started with the All Blues during last fall’s WPL season, where she played a pivotal role in our physical and mental game. Before coming to our team, she had experience playing internationally, most notably with the Portugal National Rugby Team. But, according to Theo Bennett, last fall’s WPL head coach,  what was even more outstanding than her solid defense and attacking ability was her “team mentality.” Despite her achievements Christina remained humble and deeply committed to her teammates, open to learning new things, and “took her opportunities with a great deal of personal ownership.”


Full Name: Christina Louise Ramos

Hometown: Modesto, CA
Position(s) played: Forward (prop, hooker, eight, flanker)

 Christina breaking through the San Diego Surfers' defense during a game in the past fall WPL season. Photo: Victoria Abrenica

Christina breaking through the San Diego Surfers' defense during a game in the past fall WPL season. Photo: Victoria Abrenica

All Blues: When and how did you first start playing rugby? Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

Christina: I grew up playing different sports, always trying to follow my older brothers in their athletic endeavors. As a kid I ran track & field and played basketball, softball, soccer, and waterpolo.  Although it wasn’t ‘kosher’ for me to play American football or wrestle for my high school (i.e. it was looked down upon for women to participate/play with the boys), I always teamed up with my Dad at home wrestling against my brothers in our family room. I was disappointed to find out that all UC Santa Barbara had to offer in the water was intertube waterpolo and surfing, but by chance someone handed me a flyer to try rugby. My freshman year I was lucky to be surrounded by an amazing squad of veteran players who took the team to the 2007 National Championship tornament at Penn State. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to travel and meet people from all over the world who share the same rugby passion.
 

AB: How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

C: The All Blues name came to me through the grapevine of UCSB and SoCal alumni that kept with the sport. I knew it was the closest team to my hometown, but I never quite understood the legacy of the club until I moved back to the states last fall.

 Christina during one of her international matches in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Christina Ramos

Christina during one of her international matches in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Christina Ramos

AB: Most memorable time with the All Blues?

C: This team is ridiculously easy to get along with; making it hard to chose just one ‘most memorable’ moment! This is the sixth team I’ve played for over the past 11 years, and I can honestly say that there is something really special about this team’s dynamic.

I’m a sucker for themed socials though, so this year’s Halloween weekend was one of the most entertaining of the season.

 Christina with some All Blues teammates at Nationals dinner last fall.  Photo: Jordan Taylor

Christina with some All Blues teammates at Nationals dinner last fall.  Photo: Jordan Taylor

AB: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

C: Portuguese legend Carlos Nobre once told me that rugby has done more for us as players than we ever will for the sport… these words continue to inspire me to be humble about what I have accomplished, and a reminder that in the grand scheme of things I have so much more to learn from the Sport.

 Photo courtesy of Pedro Silva

Photo courtesy of Pedro Silva

AB: It’s super cool to see your parents on the stands during our games, and even during practices!  Can you tell us a little bit more about them?  How do they feel about you playing rugby? Have they always been supportive of you playing this sport?

C: My family has always been very supportive of my and my brothers’ extracurricular endeavors. My parents weren’t much fans of traveling before I went abroad to Europe in 2010, but since then got their fair share of passport stamps; traveling as far as Dublin, Lisboa, Brive, and Moscow to see me boot up. Their support is fundamental to my success; I owe so much to their unconditional love.

 

AB: Do you have any other passions besides rugby? Do you find that these two passions intersect? If yes, how?

C: I love traveling and meeting new people, which made playing rugby overseas naturally easy for me. I love going to tournaments with international competition and finding common links between the cultures. The rugby community is a lot smaller than you would think. My host at Glendale this fall also played with my former Sport Lisboa e Benfica teammate in New Zealand last year. Talk about degrees of separation…!

The All Blues’ “Secret Weapon”: Dr. Abby Irwin

It’s not often that you find someone as caring, dedicated, and passionate as Abby Irwin, D.C., DACBSP (a.k.a Dr. Abby) is for the All Blues. She was on the road with us to WPL Nationals this past season where she helped many of our athletes deal with injuries and get back on the pitch. Dr. Abby, however, is not a new face to the All Blues and has been known as our ‘secret weapon’.

As an undergraduate and varsity athlete at Eastern Michigan University, Dr. Abby (then just “Abby”) played volleyball where she was a recipient of one of the school’s first athletic scholarships. At the time she had planned to be a veterinarian and, after finishing undergrad, went on to Michigan State University for pre-vet studies where she also first discovered rugby.  After hearing the distressing stories from friends who had gotten into vet school, though, she decided that that life wasn’t for her. She took a step back to gauge the options for her career. Simultaneously, Dr. Abby was dealing with back problems and after going to see MDs whose response was to stop playing rugby (as rugby players know all too well), she saw a chiropractor who was able to make a much greater difference in her situation.  With a passion for sports and for healing others, her mom suggested being a sports chiropractor. Soon after, Dr. Abby drove out to Life West Chiropractic College here in California.

  Dr. Abby Irwin, D.C., DACBSP. Photo: Life Chiropractic College West

Dr. Abby Irwin, D.C., DACBSP. Photo: Life Chiropractic College West

The rugby connections Dr. Abby created in college later resurfaced when a couple friends began playing for the All Blues. Although she was too busy to get back on the pitch, Dr. Abby quickly realized that the team needed her in another way. Dr. Abby and her partner, Andrea Sullivan, approached Kathy Flores, the coach at the time, and soon they were volunteering their services at home games, giving players the immediate care they needed. Dr. Abby credits Flores for much of the time she has spent with the All Blues; Flores utilized the chiropractic duo more than any coach had thus far. With the help of Kathy Flores and the chiropractic team, the team began winning national championships. Fast forward 25 years later and we still have the privilege to have Dr. Abby by our side on the pitch.

Dr. Abby and Kathy Flores checking on Phoebe's injury at WPL Nationals 2012.  Photo: Facebook

During WPL Nationals in Tucson, AZ this past November, Dr. Abby lived up to her moniker as the All Blues’ “secret weapon.” After the All Blues’ first game, outside center Cathy Cai started to feel pain radiating down her right shoulder and back. She immediately sought help from Dr. Abby who not only allayed the pain and identified where the pain was coming from, but also made sure to provide rehab and prehab instruction to expedite recovery time. For Cai, “[Dr. Abby] took her time with every All-Blues player, making sure their concerns were heard and addressed. She also worked past lunch maintaining her high level of care with each player. I, along with all of my teammates, were ready to play our game the next day. Having Dr. Abby at Nationals is one of the main reasons our players were able to win both of our games that weekend.” Whether it was chronic pain, a blow to the shoulder, or a tight muscle, Dr. Abby was able to help our players find relief and feel confident about going back onto the field.

  Dr. Abby with her daughter's softball team, which she coaches. Photo: Facebook

Dr. Abby with her daughter's softball team, which she coaches. Photo: Facebook

Currently, Dr. Abby dedicates her time not only to the All Blues as a chiropractor, but to her daughter’s softball team as a coach. Just about any time during nationals weekend you could catch the former competitive softball player keeping up with her daughter’s games on her phone or beaming about the results. To Dr. Abby, ‘working with female athletes has been my way of giving back to women’s sports in a way I never got to experience consistently as an athlete’. As a former female athlete and champion of the Title IX movement, Dr. Abby knows all too well the challenges in women’s sports. When asked what was important in raising a daughter/female athlete, Dr. Abby emphasized the value of exposing young girls to the opportunities that sports have to offer and increasing retention in athletics. When this interview was done last fall season, she said that 2017 was a year that “has been a great year of empowerment for women in general. Their voices have been heard more than ever before.  I want my daughter to feel this power and strive for equality. Athletics can be a path to this goal.”