SOUTHINGTON - The Southington girls rugby team is fresh off of a state championship. Now, two of their seniors, Brooke Garcia and Kaitlyn Demaio, are reaping the benefits of that success.
The team captains signed their letters of intent at a ceremony in the Southington High School library Wednesday afternoon. Garcia is headed to American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, while Demaio will be playing at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. Both programs are Division I.
“A day like today, I’m obviously proud of Brooke and Kaitlyn, but I’m also proud of the entire program,” Blue Knights head coach Nicholas Vargas said. “Over the last six or seven years, we’ve made it from a point where we weren’t even playing actual competition games, it was all intramural scrimmages. To this year, we overcame a lot of adversity, and ended up winning a state championship.”
Garcia had multiple other schools on her list, including Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary’s and Molloy. But a trip to American International made her decision clear.
“I went to one of the tournaments AIC had at their school and I just feel in love with it,” Garcia said, “the school, the way that the team played, their chemistry and connection. I want to go as far as I can with rugby and I think AIC is the perfect place for me.”
Garcia, a four-year starter for the Blue Knights, was even invited to participate in the USA Rugby Under-16 Development program. Vargas said her vocal leadership on the field has been a huge part to the team’s success the last four seasons and said Garcia will bring “a sense of explosiveness” to American International next season.
“Brooke is physically active on the field,” Vargas said. “When she’s on the field, you can’t help but notice her. She is one of those people that leads by example. She has an engine that never stops and is always pushing herself, and in turn, pushes her teammates as well.”
Demaio admitted Molloy wasn’t the only school on her list either. She was especially looking at UConn, a school two of Southington’s assistant coaches played for.
“I was definitely thinking, ‘rugby first’ when choosing a college,” Demaio said. “The atmosphere was the biggest thing for me. Molloy has a great atmosphere and I think it will allow me to push myself.”
Vargas admitted that while Demaio’s leadership style contrasted Garcia’s, her importance for the program was still unmatched. She was a key figurehead in getting the team through some early-season adversity.
“Kaitlyn is a natural born leader,” Vargas said. “She’s not the loudest player on the field, but she is the most cool, calm and collected. She doesn’t crack under pressure. That emanates to the rest of the players and they feed off of it.”
Both players referenced the camaraderie in the Southington program as a key to their success as a player. Demaio went as far as to say playing rugby as a freshman was the first time she really felt welcomed and “people really wanted me to be on their team.”
“I don’t think I would have gotten recruited if it wasn’t for my coaches and teammates here,” Demaio said. “I just feel very grateful for the support I’ve gotten the last four years I’ve been playing here.”
Vargas knows he is losing two crucial pieces to the team. However, he also knows the future is bright for both Garcia and Demaio.
“The two of them together really made us a formidable team,” Vargas said. “When you talk to the other coaches in the state, they know who Brooke and Kaitlyn are. So we will definitely miss them, but I’m just proud of what they have been able to accomplish and know that they will both be successful at the next level.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org