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.”

CPC Player Profile (September 2017): Emma Clery

 

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Emma Clery; “Clery” and now apparently “Ireland”

Hometown: Limerick, Ireland.


Position(s) played: Mostly centres. Dabbed around in most spots but haven’t gone any further into a scrum than back row.

All Blues since: this season!

Emma C. sporting the new All Blues game day jersey! Playing in 109 F degree weather in San Jose earlier this month versus the Glendale Merlins. Photo: Vic Abrenica

Emma C. sporting the new All Blues game day jersey! Playing in 109 F degree weather in San Jose earlier this month versus the Glendale Merlins.

Photo: Vic Abrenica

Getting Started with Rugby

●      When and how did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

I started playing about 9 years ago (I think!) with a local club at home Galbally. They were starting up a women's team for the first time and I used to play camogie (female equivalent of hurling which is a Gaelic game) with one of the girls that was involved and she asked me if I’d fancy it. My father used to play and both younger brothers play, so rugby was always the main sport that we’d go watch as kids.

Played then with Galwegians (“Wegians”) in Galway for 4 years in Div 1 which was brilliant and we won 2 All Ireland’s with them. Wegians nearly half-killed me on the social side of rugby but we were pretty decent when we’d get our shit together on the field!

 

●      Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

Played camogie and gaelic football which are both gaelic games in Ireland.

 

●      Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby?  If so, what is it?

Rugby is a simple game but as simple as it is there are always new things to learn and tweak about your game.  

Always have the fun and craic with your teammates but when you cross the white line and there’s a job to do, focus on that and work bloody hard.

It’s always good to have a beer after a game and kickback in the clubhouse or wherever.

Emma with the Wegians. Photo from Emma C.

Emma with the Wegians.

Photo from Emma C.

About your time as an All Blue

●      How did you first find out about the All Blues?

Facebook and a bit of Googling of “Women’s rugby in San Francisco”!

 

●      So far, what do you like most about being on this team?

They are an easy bunch to get out with and can take the p*ss out of each other which I’m glad to see is a universal trait of the game!

These Rookie Skits are hard work though!

 

Development as a player

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

One of our first coaches in Galbally was Pat Bourke who was old school rugby but we became great tacklers from it – gotta love a good ‘ole game of Murder Ball every night at training!

George Naoupu at Wegians was our Kiwi coach for 3 years and was brilliant. He was a pro player with Connacht at the time and brought that thinking with him and really opened up everyone’s game and thinking. 

Player wise – Ruth O’Reilly of Wegians #Inspo!

Getting that low fend on!  Photo from Emma C.

Getting that low fend on! 

Photo from Emma C.

 

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

Don’t mix vodka with cloudy lemon cider—ends in disaster every time! Pace yo’self!

 

●      Ireland’s a pretty big rugby-playing nation.  What was that like? (i.e. attitudes toward this sport while you were growing up, did people start playing it early, etc.)

The men’s sides of the game has always been there but has got much bigger in the last 10-15 years on a countrywide stage but Gaelic Games will still be the dominant passion for most people in Ireland.

Women’s rugby was pretty small up to about 6 or so years ago with little or no underage but it’s getting much bigger in recent times and more men’s clubs are setting up women’s sides. I would love to be 20 years younger and be able to play underage!

 

More about you!

●      Who’s your favorite rugby player and/or team to watch? Why?

Favorite player would have always been David Wallace (flanker) and watching Munster in the good ‘ole days between 2000-2010. 

Nowadays, you can’t look past New Zealand and the way they are cutting it up. Ben Smith at fullback for them is pretty class. 

 

●      What is your favorite non-rugby activity?

Gaelic Football and hill walking.

 

●      If you were an ice cream flavor, which one would you be?

Chocolate and mint would be the fav but I’m developing a disastrous love for Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food!

 

●      Any traditions from your old team you’d like to share?

Sunday Sess straight after a game in the clubhouse – need to find a clubhouse :)

Invariably ending up forgetting to go home!

All Blues vs. ORSU (9/9/2017)

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This past Saturday, the All Blues took on Portland's ORSU at home. The match was hosted by the wonderful San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club on Treasure Island. Kickoff was at 12PM, and conditions were much more favorable over the previous weekend, with a high of 75F and a forecast of partly cloudy skies. 

The game started a little slow for the All Blues, with ORSU scoring their first try within the first 5 minutes (no conversion). As the first quarter of the game continued, it was concentrated mostly on the home side of the field, leaving the All Blues on the defensive. A second try by ORSU was held up by the home team at the 10 minute mark, and the All Blues continued to try to fight back. Unfortunately, at 17 minutes, the All Blues succumbed to a second try by ORSU (still no conversion). Trailing behind 10 to 0, a great change of pace was made as number 6, Christina Ramos, took a 60-meter run for the first try of the afternoon for the All Blues. Shortly after, a second try for the All Blues was made by number 10, Bulou Mataitoga, ending the first half with a great deal of momentum for the home team.

As the second half began, the game was tied, 10 to 10, with no conversions made on either side. After the kickoff, it was clear that there had been a change in the direction of the game. Within minutes, Flyhalf Mataitoga ran in a third try for the All Blues (no conversion), her second of the day. This was followed immediately by two quick back-to-back tries for the All Blues. The first of these was touched down by number 8, Delaney Chapman, a former San Francisco Golden Gate player. It was converted by number 15, Sam Miller. A quick fifth try was run in after by the forward pack, including number 7, Cassandra "Tard" Tong, and touched down by number 3, Allie Byrne (no conversion). Ahead by 17, the All Blues continued to play hard against ORSU. A great run by Mataitoga with an offload to number 21, Emma Harbidge, scored the seventh and final try of the match for the All Blues.

The game ended with a final score of 32 to 10 for the All Blues. Particularly outstanding performances were made by number 8 (Delaney Chapman) and number 10 (Bulou Mataitoga).

Written by Elena Cuadros