Author: Julie Xu
After securing two victories against the University of Michigan and Loyola Marymount University, rugby fans at Occidental anticipated good news after the men’s team flew to Omaha, Nebraska to play in the National Championships on Saturday, April 2.
Defeating North Dakota State University 16-0 and St. Edwards University in Austin 28-20, the rugby team won the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight. The men will be flying out to Virginia Beach on April 30 to play in the Final Four and compete for the National Championship Title.
This is the first time in Occidental’s rugby history that the men’s team has been invited to compete at nationals. However, the team’s achievements didn’t happen overnight. “The team has been building upon a few years of success,” captain Mitch Grummon (senior) said.
The 2007-2008 athletes were the first to show that rugby was a sport that required both dedication and passion. “The players have taken important strides as leaders, which makes my job so much easier,” Head Coach Jeremy Castro said.
The underclassman who played three years ago are now the core group of leaders bringing the 2010-2011 team success. Consequently, the team has increased their numbers significantly over this past year. “The team has become more focused and driven towards the ultimate goal of winning a national championship,” Ben Pigg (junior) said.
As the Final Four competition date draws closer, it is clear that the work the men put in at the beginning of the year to reach their goals has paid off. “We talked early in the year about becoming rugby players in the true sense of the word,” Grummon said.
The team is no longer composed of football players who now play rugby, or soccer players who are on the rugby team. All the players on the team call themselves rugby players. This unification has changed the team dynamic and allows them to play smarter and communicate better.
The trip to Nebraska was financed through donations from parents, the Occidental athletics department and alumni. “We are really fortunate to have former Oxy rugby players still passionate about helping this program grow,” Pigg said.
Within two days after the word spread about the team competing at nationals, alumni donated a large portion of the money necessary to fund the trip. The trip to Virginia Beach is estimated at $20,000. “We have a challenge ahead of us that is bigger than the teams we will face – namely financing the whole trip,” Castro said.
The men hope to work with alumni, parents and the Occidental community to raise enough money so the players can compete in Virginia at the end of this month. The team is thrilled and honored to be able to compete in the Final Four. “With an undefeated record, our expectations are high,” Castro said.
Grummon believes there is no better way to end his college rugby career than to play at nationals and hopefully take the title. The underclassmen are also pleased by the seniors’ prospects at nationals. “As a junior, I am excited for the senior boys to have made it to nationals in their graduating year,” Pigg said.
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