Steamboat women fight to second in Cowpie rugby tournament |

Steamboat women fight to second in Cowpie rugby tournament

Tina Nesberg pushes through the defense on Saturday during the Cowpie Classic rugby tournament at Ski Town Fields in Steamboat Springs. Steamboat's women went 3-0 on the day before losing in the championship game. The second place finish is their best for their home tournament.
Joel Reichenberger

It wasn’t that the Steamboat Springs women’s rugby team has never had success in its home tournament.

The squad, for instance, placed third in the 2015 edition of the Cowpie Classic rugby tournament.

The Steamboat women have never had a run quite like they did Saturday, however, as they played in the big Steamboat tourney for the sixth consecutive year. Steamboat plowed through the early portion of its schedule undefeated, then won a semifinal game easily all before finally meeting a match in the championship.

Steamboat’s women started the day 3-0 before falling in the finals to a determined Littleton squad, 15-0.

“We just have a lot of good players with natural instincts, and they’re very coachable,” said Tina Nesberg, a player/coach for the squad.

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Nesberg has been spending her summers in Steamboat for the last three years, and she’s spent those summers with the rugby team.

Steamboat beat its first opponent, 52-0, then clobbered its second, the Boulder Babes, 27-0. That got the squad into the playoffs where it blasted Glendale, setting up the showdown with Littleton.

“Today was special because we’ve never gotten this far in our own tournament before,” Steamboat’s Alyssa Lockwood said.

She’s in her second year on the squad and has grown to love the sport.

“I like that it’s fast, and it gets women together playing a sport with the same rules as men. It’s really fun, and the community’s really great,” she said.

She was far from alone in her appreciation for the sport.

“I love everything about rugby,” said Alissa Terpstra, playing through her first season of rugby in Steamboat. “The women are so much fun, so energetic all the time, and they’re so fun to play with. Practices are just hilarious, and I love it.”

The team was bolstered by a group of players from Jackson Hole, a “sister team,” in the words of Nesberg. They all combined for a run in the Cowpie they won’t soon forget.

Perfect not quite good enough for Steamboat men

On paper, the Steamboat men seemed to have success similar to the women. They also went undefeated, 3-0, through the day.

In fact, they never even lost.

They didn’t play for the championship, however, and instead had to settle for fifth place. Steamboat was one of five teams to go undefeated in the 12-team men’s bracket. Only four were able to advance to the semifinals, and Steamboat was ruled out by a hair.

Steamboat beat its first opponent, Sante Fe, 17-0, and its second, Queen City, 19-7. It then beat Breckenridge, 19-5.

That was all good, very positive, but those scores were just a little too close, and when Breck scored late in that last game, it pulled Steamboat’s point differential down enough to allow a team from Boulder to squeeze into the fourth semifinal spot.

Steamboat was set to play one final game, to decide fifth place, but its opponent, Littleton, forfeited, so Steamboat finished the day without a blemish but short of the championship.

“It’s fine. We were undefeated. The guys played great and that’s how these tournaments work,” coach Julian Bistrow said. “The teams enter into that contract. We all understand it. Just today, Steamboat was on the wrong end of it.”

Aspen went on to beat Boulder, then beat Wyoming in a dramatic final. Aspen trailed by three but scored as time expired then sank its kick to take a 24-20 victory.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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