BY SYDBEY MUSSER – SPORTS EDITOR
Susquehanna’s men’s rugby team has come out swinging this season, and the results are nothing but positive.
The team is currently going 5-0 and looks to keep the momentum as they face their rival and only other undefeated team, Bucknell, on Oct. 31. Thrilled about their ongoing success, team Vice President and senior flanker Christopher Warden expressed the importance of Saturday’s game to the group.
“Overall we have put up more offensive points and prevented other teams from scoring on us better than any other team in our league, and better than any [Susquehanna] rugby team has done in the past,” he said.
Warden’s teammates are eager to hit the pitch, and the camaraderie of the group is evident.
“The team has been successful specifically because of the positive attitude we wanted to enforce this year. We tried to make that one of the most important things that we especially got across to the first years so that it just became natural to them,” sophomore lock Eric Sayler said. “The strengths of our team are our leadership from our upperclassmen and our coaching. Our upperclassmen are always positive and looking to help the younger guys improve and even improve themselves. Our coaching is top-notch and is ideal for a team that wants to succeed.”
This is Sayler’s second year playing rugby. The training and hard work put into practice and performance has only made him anticipate the game against Bucknell more.
“The game against Bucknell is definitely our toughest so far this season,” he said. “Personally, I have been excited about this game since the schedule was released to us. We need to prove that we are the best team in our division and show we can beat anybody.”
Senior scrumhalf Joe Borza shared Sayler’s enthusiasm.
“I think the game will go well,” he said. “This is because we have a lot of guys stepping up this year after losing eight seniors, Mike Farina and I because of career-ending injuries. Everyone knows how important the game is – not just because it’s Bucknell, but for a number one seed in playoffs.”
Borza, who tore his ACL and meniscus, is not able to play this season. However, he refuses to allow his injuries to dampen his commitment to and support of the team.
“I think the team has been so successful because of the bond we have. We are all always together, be it off the field, in the gym or in the caf,” he said. “Because we all know each other so well, that follows on to the field.”
The team has a solid combination of seniority and experience from the older players, and energy and zeal from the underclassmen, something senior inside center Jesse Boardman attributes to the success of the group.
“In my opinion the basis of our success this year is multi-faceted, coming from much greater team cohesion on and off the pitch than we’ve experienced in prior years, a renewed mindset of constantly wanting to expand the legacy of our club through achievement, and a new wave of rookies and first years who have brought a wealth of experience and athleticism to the table,” Boardman said. “The uniqueness of this team’s dynamics can be see in how tight-knit we are as a community, the love of the sport that each of us has and the will to excel at it as well.”
Boardman continued: “I’ll be playing the sport for as long as I can. Rugby is a brotherhood that exists nearly everywhere you go.”
Boardman has been involved in rugby all throughout his time at Susquehanna, with six years of experience prior to playing for the university. With his history on the team, he thinks Bucknell will be a challenge, but a challenge that the Crusaders are ready to face.
“As of now I would consider our strengths to be our offensive playbook, which is very advanced compared to most of the clubs we face off against, the size and strength of our forwards, and the amount of rugby IQ that our head coach Dr. Jon Niles, assistant coach Randy McGregor, and junior flyhalf Sean Hake, who has over 10 years of rugby experience, bring to the table,” he said. “Although we have only allowed three tries, or a total of 15 points to be scored on us thus far into the season, our defense might need some fine tuning if we are looking to be competitive at a higher level.”
Boardman added: “Also, without sounding overly macho or cliché, every rugby match is like a battle, 80 minutes of fighting tooth and nail for field position. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than coming out victorious after a hard fought match, and the feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood, or sisterhood, is unmatched in any sport that I’ve ever took part in.”
Boardman seemed to hit the nail on the head in his mention of brotherhood amongst the team. Warden agreed, stating: “I think that a large part of our success has come from the boost in positivity and chemistry among the entire team. We have definitely improved those two aspects this year, so even though we had a good season last year, I believe that since we are playing as a unit and we are not getting down on each other for mistakes we have raised our level of play.”
The Crusaders’ last game was on Oct. 24 against Franklin and Marshall, where they won with a final score of 92-10. The bar is set high for Susquehanna, and they intend on only raising it higher for the Bucknell match.
“I get nervous before every game, that’s natural and it makes me more focused,” Warden said. “As for Bucknell, I am not worried, even though it will be our toughest match yet. We play for the Bisonader cup every year [Bucknell Bison and SU Crusaders], but the kids at [Bucknell] don’t even know what this trophy looks like because the team hasn’t had it in six or seven years. We are fired up over this match, and the cup is certainly going to be staying at [Susquehanna] for another year.”
The team anticipates another triumph on Saturday and would love to have support from the rest of the Susquehanna community.
“I think it will be a great game and I’d love to see a fan section in Lewisburg,” sophomore center Matt Kaltenbach said.