High caliber: Lewis back from abroad, ready to resume role with Mesa rugby team
Mesa State College women’s rugby player Mackenzie Lewis has played alongside some of the best the sport has to offer.
The 19-year-old Chaparral High School graduate is a member of the Under-20 USA Women’s National Rugby team.
Lewis recently returned from a run with the national team in the North America Caribbean Rugby Association championships in the Bahamas.
The USA team defeated the Cayman Islands and Caribbean Select teams before losing to the U20 Canadian team in its final match.
Lewis was one of 24 players from schools ranging from the University of North Carolina and Brown University to the University of California-Santa Cruz.
The ruggers practiced for six hours on off days to get familiar with their teammates.
“We never had played together, so we would have three hours of practice in the morning and three hours of practice at night,” Lewis said. “Everyone there knew how to play rugby, so we were working on getting together as a team.”
Lewis plays flanker, which is an offensive position, and said the competition within the national team motivated her to improve.
“I learned a lot from the other players,” Lewis said. “We had one player that had been playing rugby since she was 3 years old, so it was a different group of players that all had a lot of knowledge.”
Lewis returned to the states on Sunday, flying from the Bahamas to Miami, then to Dallas before arriving in Denver. Lewis had just enough time to meet with her family for a meal before departing for Grand Junction in order to not miss Monday’s first day of class.
Not only did she need to get back for class, Lewis also has to continue her role as the Mavericks’ team captain and recruiter.
Lewis started the women’s rugby team in 2009, and led them to an undefeated season in their first year.
“We have a lot of players coming from the top high school teams,” Lewis said. “We have a lot more talent coming, and we think the caliber of the team is going to be a lot better.”
Mesa State was an independent last season, playing mostly club teams, but now joins the ranks of Division II this season, although it is still a club program at the college.
The move allows the Mavericks to play a tougher schedule against teams from the University of Wyoming, Western State College and the University of Colorado ‘B’ Side team.
Mesa State begins its fall season Sept. 11 at the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union Kickoff Tournament in Gunnison.
“Our schedule will be new and more difficult,” coach Ron Hall said. “But with athletes we have, and sheer desire, we’ll do well.”