SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento is home to America's first all-girls high school Polynesian rugby team, the Sacramento Amazons.
That's according to the Sacramento Police Activities League (SacPal), a group working to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in underserved communities.
Sefesi Green founded the team in the fall of 2001. The first Amazons were daughters of Tongan immigrants. Today, the team is filled with players of all races and backgrounds.
"It is a Polynesian-based club, but it is open to everyone," said Wayne Koi, head coach of the Sacramento Amazons.
Koi said rugby offers unique opportunities for Pacific Islander communities.
"We have six seniors on the team. Out of those six, five of them have gotten scholarships to go play rugby on a collegiate level. That wouldn't have happened if we didn't have this program. I think, overall, it just builds you on and off the field as a person," Koi said.
The sport also holds cultural significance for some of the players.
"Rugby, back home in Fiji, it's next to God," said Roelenoa Lagilagi, a player for the Sacramento Amazons. "Back home, when we're watching the national team play, I was like, 'Oh, I want to play. I want to be just like them.' I wanted to play with mostly a Pacific Islander team because I wanted to play with people who look like me, like Tongan, Melanesian, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans. When I look at them, they're really like family to me."
The team continues to encourage representation in sports, like rugby, to raise awareness about Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, diverse cultures and sisterhood.
In 2016, the Amazons partnered with the Sacramento Police Activities League, becoming the SacPAL Amazons. That same year, the Amazons won their third National Championship. Now, the team is preparing for a national tournament in Nebraska with hopes of bringing home another trophy.
"If I can do all this, you know, then I can do basically anything," said Afeiau'upu Mann, a player for the Sacramento Amazons. "I was able to show my grandma and aunties, like, 'Hey, this is not just a guy sport.' When you're out there putting in the work and doing stuff that sometimes you're not comfortable with, or sometimes it's new to you, and you have girls supporting you, and girls doing it with you, you know, it sort of like creates a bond. Like, OK, we got each other on and off the field."