Photo via wcuramsrugby Instagram
As the semester enters its fourth week, several spring sports begin to open their seasons with high hopes for how they’ll end the year. Some come off of a disappointing previous year, while others come off of a late season momentum swing which saw the team find a winning groove. As for the West Chester Men’s Rugby Club, their fall season was a mixed bag throughout, but by the end of it, there was the scent of confidence exuding throughout the team and it has seeped into the eve of their spring 7s season.
“The team got hot at the end of the season,” President and Captain of the Rugby Club Andrew Barber told me. “We pulled out wins in the final three games against Rutgers (29-–12), Rowan (34–19) and Temple (41–26). Rookies on the team found their groove and stepped up to the occasion. The teams missed the playoffs by one point.”
Now, I hate to drag my Eagles football fandom into a rugby article, but one famous saying has always stuck around with me from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland that was made famous by Jason Kelce’s speech following their Super Bowl victory in 2018: “Hungry dogs run faster.”
This obviously plays into the mentality of any athlete and their unquenchable quest to win at whatever they are competing towards. Rugby is no different. Yet, when one gets so close to the feast and is unable to take part, is he not even more ravenous?
When one considers that last year, the team traveled to Houston, Texas for a national championship title and came up short, the starvation becomes that much more severe.
In terms of the team’s expectations, Barber seems to agree, “Expectations for this season are higher than they’ve ever been for the upcoming 7s season,” he told me. “There is a lot of talent on this team that looks to continue the hot streak we left off on at the end of the fall. The team has been hitting on all cylinders at practice, and making it back to the Collegiate Rugby Championship is a realistic goal we are working towards every week.”
When asked what improvements the guys could have from last year to this season, Barber responded: “making smarter decisions in regards to field awareness. Too many times last year we gave up turnovers that could’ve been easily avoided with better field awareness and knowing what to do with the ball. Fitness will also be stressed in preparation for this season as well as improving our defensive presence.”
Now, with this season, there will be new names to look out for as returning members of last year’s championship-appearing team have mostly gone off to graduate. “Of the starting 7 that played in the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC’s) last year, only two will be returning this season (Andrew Barber and AJ Ferraro).” Barber continued to tell me that “It will be up to our rookies and second/third year guys who traveled with us last year to step up and make big plays this season.”
Among these players needed to step up is Junior Cam Mcilrath. Barber told me “Mcilrath will be a guy to watch this upcoming season. He traveled with us last year to the championship but did not see action. He runs hard and poses a threat to the middle of the field which should open up opportunities for the guys on the outside. He is also a standout defensive player.”
As for the newcomers, one is Zak Elgogari, a sophomore who transferred from Kutztown University this season. He leaves a Division 1A 7s defending national championship team which gives him rare and precious experience to share with his new teammates on their road toward that same end. He had an ankle injury this fall which limited him, but Barber tells me that he is “healthy and ready to go this spring.”
High hopes for the 7s team this year run hot into their first matchup in the Pitt Dome 7s which will have been played by the time this article is published and printed. Their second matchup will be next Saturday, February 25 at the University of Delaware. The rest of their schedule can be found at wcuramsrugby.com and @wcuramsrugby on Instagram.
Joseph Gill is a fourth year English major with a minor in Journalism. Jg923276@wcupa.edu