BY BROOKE RENNA, ASST. NEWS EDITOR
Ranked nineteenth in the country by the end of the season, this was the most successful men’s rugby season Susquehanna had seen since 1996. The team was able to clinch the division championship title in the game against Penn State-Berks on their home field, winning the game 26-24.
Susquehanna men’s rugby defeated Penn State-Berks again in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union Championship Playoffs. President Alex Kahle said, “We knew they would be fired up, and it would be our job to match it.” The men did exactly that. Within the first 15 minutes of the game, junior Sam Silknetter and junior Joey Ferraro made two tries and junior Spencer Zuech completed the conversion kicks, making the score 14-3. Susquehanna continued to dominate the rest of the match, ending the game at 45-22.
The win took them to the championship game against Gettysburg College, which they lost 28-24. “It was a hard fought game that we were leading 24-10 with 20 minutes left and had a mental break down where they scored two tries to lead 28-24,” Coach Niles said.
The loss did not take them out of the competition. The next weekend they traveled to Cherry Hill, N.J., to compete against Montclair State to play in a play-in game for National Small College Rugby playoffs. Vice president Mike Tilley said: “Before the game, I was hoping we would be hungrier than we were the previous week against Gettysburg. We came out pretty flat against Gettysburg, and I was hoping we would be able to pick up the intensity going in to the game against Montclair State.”
However, the team knew there was going to be difficulties going into the game. Niles said, “We knew they were very big and played a forwards dominated game. Just tackling them would be a challenged as some of their smallest pack players were the size of our largest.” Because of this, Susquehanna was not able to gain possession of the ball very often. When they did receive the ball, they were able to score. Sophomore Alex Holderbaum scored two tries and Ferraro scored one try.
Now that the season is over, the team is looking to develop the younger players on the team and recruit more players. Since Niles took over coaching in fall 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in players. There were only eight players and now they are currently up to 32. “We also need to develop our younger and new players, particularly finding replacements for centers Mike Tilley and Alex Kahle, who have been the backbone of the team both on and off the field,” Niles said.
They will also be playing division II teams and challenging themselves. The seniors will be taking the backseat and allow some of the younger recruits to step up and take control of the team. Tilley said, “We have a lot of young talent on the squad that will benefit this spring by not only playing more, but playing better competition.”