A Preview of the 2016 NSCRO Men’s 7s National Championship - Collegiate Rugby Championship

A Preview of the 2016 NSCRO Men’s 7s National Championship

Eight teams have been preparing for the NSCRO Men’s 7’s National Championship on June 4-5 in Chester, PA, as part of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship event. The Championships will feature five teams who are making their first appearance at 7’s Nationals as well as the defending champions – the Vatos of New Mexico Highlands

2015 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship Mandatory Credit: ContrastPhotography.com

2015 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship
Credit: ContrastPhotography.com

University – along with last year’s 4th place finisher, The Claremont Colleges, and with Susquehanna University, the only team to now appear in all four NSCRO 7’s National Championships.

Babson College 
…rugby program has been around since 1979, but this is the first year that it’s ever trained or competed in 7’s. At the start of the 2015-2016 season the team made its goal to be “competitive” at the qualifier for this event.

Their original 12-player roster for the weekend was made up of a single senior, three juniors, seven sophomores and one freshmen; only two of these players had any prior rugby experience to their time at the Massachusetts-based college. However driving into Pennsylvania yesterday was a challenge: two players were lost to injury and the team’s bus broke down 30 minutes after leaving the campus. This left Babson with no team training time on Thursday.

“We have a pool of extremely young and inexperienced rugby players; make no mistake about it, they are rugby players and I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to coach, mentor and become friends with the fine young men of Babson College,” said Coach Carrick Pell. “We are just glBabsonad to be here! However, don’t be mistaken, we are here to compete; if the boys play with ‘Top 6 & Center Mast’ (brains and heart) and dominate their space, then they will represent Babson College, their parents and themselves as best as I could hope.”

The Claremont Colleges
…are returning for their third appearance at this championship. Their goal is to perform as well in 7’s as they did in 15’s this season where they had their best year since being in the 2010 DII National Champions, as they made it to the NSCRO National Championship final and lost a close match to Mount St. Mary’s University. Unfortunately several of their better athletes were lost to injury during this year’s 15’s season.

“But we don’t feel sorry for ourselves, we feel proud of all we’ve done and we’re not unique in the challenges we’ve had to overcome. We feel honored to be here and to be part of the CRC and NSCRO Nationals. Claremont Colleges will always exemplify the sport of rugby and carry ourselves as the colleges expect and the sport demands. We’re excited to show it on and off the field in Philadelphia. I don’t feel anyone will take us lightly,” said Head Coach Jeremy Ognall.

Franklin & Marshall College
…will be making their debut this weekend at the NSCRO 7’s National Championships. F&M ended their 2016 spring academic season way back in May, and has been focusing on doing two-a-day sessions, six days a week to prepare for this weekend. Their morning routine consists of lifting or conditioning; while evenings are practice.

“Hopefully we’re going to go there and win some games and see how it plays out. We’ve played against two of the teams who are in the tournament in the past and we’ve been able to beat both of them so we’re hoping to do fairly well but, I mean, I want to be cautious with it being our first trip to Nationals,” said Head Coach Larry Carroll.

Ithaca College
…will be making their debut at the NSCRO 7’s Championship this weekend. They played in the 2010 NSCRO 15’s Final Four then moved to a USA Rugby Division II league. This past Spring they realized that NSCRO was a better place for their program and are back aiming for success.

“The team has played a tough schedule, starting as the only NSCRO team at the recent Las Vegas 7’s and then played against several D1 teams. Most of the guys have been off starting new jobs and internships, but I suspect once we get a good run in we’ll gel quickly again. Ithaca has a good mix of athleticism and discipline, against a tough pool – it will be fun to watch the guys,” said Annemarie Farrell, who is one of only a handful of female head coaches on a male collegiate team in the United States.

LSU Alexandria 
…started their journey to their first NSCRO 7s Nationals by way of a 3 a.m.flight Thursday morning. Not only is this their first championship appearance, the rugby program is in its first year. Therefore, the team is currently made up of two sophomores and the rest are all freshmen. The Louisiana-based school had a fall 15’s season to get the team up and running, which did result in getting them into the NSCRO playoffs. However, being such a new program made it challenging to bring in enough players, making 7’s more their game.

“We started studying up and said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right. We’re going to run two-a-days. We’re going to train. We’re going to learn how to play this game the right way.’ And we went out to the NSCRO 7s qualifying tournament and got through it undefeated and made this thing happen,” said Head Coach Boyd Lejeune.

New  Mexico Highlands University 
…are the 2015 returning NSCRO 7’s National Champions. Last year’s final match was a repeat of the 2014 final against the New England College Lions. However, in 2015 the Vatos prevailed 22-19 on a try by their star, Kevon Williams, after the final whistle sounded.

“The very first year we came in, not a lot of people had heard of us. We surprised a lot of people that we made it to the championship. Then last year, people already knew that we were a decent team, but we had to prove ourselves that we were able to compete at a higher level. This year I know everybody knows that we’re the team to beat because we have a lot of returning starters and so we can’t mess up,” said the Vatos’ Head Coach, Dick Green who helped found the team in 1992.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
…is making their debut at the NSCRO 7s National Championship this weekend after a strong showing at the East Penn7s Qualifying Tournament which earned them an “at-large” selection. Larry Donmoyer, a volunteer coach, has been working with the team since the program began in 1986. After a disappointing 15’s season, he decided to really focus the team on 7’s.

“Right now we’ve decided to tighten down the defense and stop over sliding and giving opponents holes to run through – this will make it harder for the offense to attack,” said Coach Donmoyer. Co-Coach Terry Pledger also commented, “7’s is more for our team and we’ve got a lot of little guys who are really, really fast and so 7’s is more of our sport. We did really well in 7’s.”

Susquehanna University 
…is marking the team’s fourth straight year at this event, having participated in every single NSCRO 7’s National Championship since its inception in 2012. Their most recent competition achievement was winning the Kutztown 7’s tournament 27-21 over Rowan University. Although they’re only located a few hours away from Chester, PA the team has decided to stay closer to the site for optimal recovery during the weekend championship.

“The expectations are significantly higher. The first year was kind of a whirlwind; we weren’t quite sure what to expect the first year of doing it. Then the last two years, we realized the level of competition…Having that knowledge of what is expected and what goes on in the whole tournament is going to give us some good headway,” said the team’s Head Coach Jon Niles, who is also an alumnus (Class of 2000) of another team participating in the NSCRO 7’s National Championship: St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

To see the full match schedule for Saturday and Sunday play click here.

This article originally appeared on NSCRO.org and was written by Clara Lefton and Steve Cohen.



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