Missoula Big Sky junior Julia Riekena reflects on her dominance at the European U18 7's Rugby Tournament - MTN Sports photo

MISSOULA – If there’s one characteristic the baby sister can develop growing up in a house full of older brothers, it’s toughness. Julia Riekena has just that. The Big Sky junior returned back to Missoula recently from a successful trip to Vichy, France, where she competed as part of the USA Rugby Girls High School All-American team in the European U18 7’s Rugby Tournament.

“It was amazing,” said Riekena. “It was truly an honor to just put on the jersey and be able to compete against top competition and have a ton of people in the US just watching and cheering for us.”

During the United States’ stellar run to the championship game, Riekena played an integral role. With just over 3 minutes left, the Montanan outran the entire Canadian team to cut USA’s deficit to three. Then as time expired, Riekena dove into the try zone, for a match-ending win.

“So I picked up a little bit on my left to see the weak side, and it was just wide open,” she said reliving the play. “So I was like ‘Okay here’s my chance, go for it.’ And so it was just an awesome feeling scoring and just knowing that we got the win over Canada.”

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When Team USA entered the championship with France, both teams were undefeated. Despite losing to the host team, Riekena’s performance throughout the tournament earned her the Canterbury Player of the Week from The Rugby Breakdown. Playing with and against the best athletes in the world brought the best of Riekena, but she’s only getting started.

“It’s going to just make me work harder. Like that was just to see basically where I am now and give me an idea of where I want to be and just take away how I want to work harder.”

Riekena returned back to the U.S. on Sunday. Now she gets a break to focus on schoolwork, before putting on a Big Sky uniform for another upcoming basketball season.