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Globe South Sports Notebook

Rugby novice at Stonehill becomes All-American

Milton’s Katie O’Malley (with ball) has become a rugby standout at Stonehill College. Milton’s Katie O’Malley (with ball) has become a rugby standout at Stonehill College.
By Marvin Pave
August 7, 2011

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Milton’s Katie O’Malley was a three-sport athlete at Ursuline Academy in Dedham - a three-year starter on the soccer team, a two-year starter at point guard on the basketball team, and a four-year varsity runner on the track team

But when she arrived at Stonehill College in the fall of 2007, the former Catholic Conference 400-meter track champion went in a very different direction.

As her father, Dan O’Malley tells it: “One day a week or so into her freshman year, she called me and said, ‘Dad, I am playing a sport.’ ‘Good for you,’ I said, figuring that the sport must be soccer given that it was September. Well, it wasn’t soccer, basketball, or track.’’

It was rugby, a highly successful women’s club program at the Easton school, and a sport O’Malley played so well that last month she was named All-American by US Rugby and selected to join the Women’s Collegiate All-Americans touring team that split a pair of games last week in the Can-Am Tournament in Saranac Lake, N.Y. against Canada’s U-23 All-Stars.

“I was planning on running track in college,’’ said O’Malley, who attended an activities fair at Stonehill that led her to a women’s rugby team meeting. “I fell in love with the sport right away at our first practice and told my dad I wasn’t running track anymore.

“I felt rugby was perfect for me. I think it’s the truest team sport. It takes all 15 players to score and it combines physical strength with speed and endurance. I sometimes call it organized chaos.’’

Rugby teams advance the ball by running, passing laterally or backwards, or kicking. Games consist of two 40-minute halves and there are no timeouts. The field dimensions are similar to soccer. Five points are awarded when the ball is touched down in the “try’’ zone. Conversions are worth two points when the ball is kicked through the uprights. Penalty kicks are worth three points.

O’Malley played the inside center position and started every game for four years, according to Stonehill head coach and Raynham resident Derek Jenesky, whose team advanced to the national Division 2 semifinals this spring.

“She’s just an amazing athlete, very strong physically and mentally in a very tough sport,’’ said Jenesky. “We had her at that position because she’s our steadiest tackler and I’m a believer in defense above all other aspects of the game.’’

In her freshman year, Stonehill won the Division 3 national championship and O’Malley was named MVP of the tournament. In her sophomore year, Stonehill moved up to Division 2, made the final four at Stanford University, and was national runner-up. As a junior, she helped Stonehill gain the final eight and was named Most Valuable Back at the New England championships.

O’Malley said her father, a multisport athlete at North Quincy High and former professional boxer, has been a role model since the days he coached her in a town basketball league with his two other daughters, Erin and Molly.

O’Malley’s rugby season started in the fall but the national playoffs were in the spring.

“We have to keep training all winter long so you definitely need a high level of commitment from the players and coaches,’’ said O’Malley, who plans to play for the Beantown Rugby Club this fall, Boston’s most elite women’s team.

Coastal boys triumph in Bay State basketball The Coastal region boys’ basketball team (scholastic division) went 6-0 and captured the gold medal at the recent Bay State Summer Games in Boston.

The team, coached by Plymouth resident Phil Lewis, was represented by 12 players ages 15 and 16 from the South Shore and Cape Cod, including brothers Owen and Jack Murphy and Jesse Bunting (Plymouth North); Tom Galanek of Plymouth (B.C. High); Scott Alexander and Tony Pires (Carver High); St. Clair Ryan of Easton (Oliver Ames); and Tucker Bouchard of Kingston (Silver Lake Regional).

All were members of their school’s junior varsity and varsity teams as either freshmen or sophomores last season. Lewis’s assistants included Kevin Cobban of Plymouth.

Coastal defeated Southeast in the championship game and in round-robin play and also topped the West, Northeast, Metro (Greater Boston), and Central teams.

“Everybody played so we were able to constantly apply pressure defense all over the court,’’ said Lewis. “It worked because our players who were used to more minutes with their hometown teams, sacrificed playing time with us so that we were fresher and able to go all out the entire game.

“The paint was dominated by the Murphy brothers, who are both 6-foot-6. Pires and Bouchard led our offense, and I thought Ryan was the best wing defender in the tournament.’’

Evans is a player to watch The accolades are pouring in for University of New Hampshire junior middle linebacker Matt Evans of Hanover, whose 156 tackles last fall was the second-highest total in school history.

The 6-foot, 233-pound Evans has been named to the 2011 College Football Performance Awards (D-I Football Championship Subdivision) Watch List, Phil Steele’s Preseason FCS All-American First Team and Steele’s Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association Team, and the Watch List for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award for the FCS’s most outstanding defensive player.

Evans’s 79 solo tackles last year ranked third nationally, and his 12 tackles per game was fifth overall in the FCS. His superb season resulted in three All-American honors.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com