Rugby goes to Final Four
The club men’s rugby team is achieving a feat that they haven’t accomplished since the early 1990s. The team will be traveling to Utah May 18 and 19 to participate in the Final Four Championship.
It’s been a long season for the Division II team that has yielded some of the best results in recent team history.
Towson ended the fall season just short of winning the Potomac Rugby Union Championships, falling to local rival Salisbury. It qualified, however, for the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union playoffs and spent the spring season preparing.
At the MARFU playoffs, the team beat Georgetown and lost to Salisbury.
Towson still qualified for the Sweet 16 in New Hampshire, where it defeated Boston University and then Colgate in the Elite Eight, earning the team its trip to the Final Four.
Being able to go to the Final Four is a big success for this team, which has pulled itself from the ashes and turned into a competitive, winning club team for Towson, according to club President Nathan Brady.
The rebuild started with getting better coaches and gathering more players from the 15 that made up the roster a couple years ago.
“We started off with Don Stone and then he brought in coaches around him that helped out. So then now we’ve grown into a program where we have 60 guys on the roster and we have 30 that are committed and come out to practice all the time,” Brady said.
For Towson, winning the Championship would mean moving back up to the team’s original Division I status. In the late-’90s and early 2000s, the club became more of a social club than an active playing team and lost its elite status, according to Brady.
“Our competitiveness dropped, and we had to drop out of Division I because we barely could field a full team,” he said. “Since the early 2000s, this is the best team we’ve had. We’d rather lose to more competitive teams than beat teams around the local area 80-something to three. You want that competitiveness because it only makes you better as a player.”
One of the problems the team faces regularly is the fact that it doesn’t have varsity status.
Brady said that being a club has been difficult in terms of getting practice field time and gaining recruits.
In addition to not having ideal practice facilities, being a club, it’s harder to play against teams that do have varsity status, Brady said.
“You go up against some of these varsity programs where they have full-time coaches. They literally are rugby players,” he said. “We’re students first, who love being together and playing rugby. Being a varsity athlete, sometimes the student aspect doesn’t always have to take precedence. They get to focus on rugby a lot more than we do. While we’re away on a trip, we have to worry about, ‘Oh I have this paper, I have this homework,’ and things like that to worry about. You can definitely see a difference.”
For now, the team’s goal is to beat Salisbury and send them home packing.
“In the past few years, Salisbury has been the king. They’ve ruled; they haven’t been competitive until the past two years. We’ve beat them a couple times, and we’re starting to be more competitive. They know we’re a tough team,” Brady said. “We’re hoping to get through Salisbury and get to the National Championship for the first time in Division II history.”