As the Mount Saint Joseph school year comes to a close, so do the sports programs, including MSJ Rugby. Rugby is not a sport widely known across the United States; it is more an international sport. Though over the years, it has become very popular going from youth leagues to high schools to college and even new professional leagues in the United States. Mount Saint Joseph is one of four schools in the MIAA to have a rugby team, along with Loyola, Spalding, and Calvert Hall. This year there was great competition.
The MSJ Varsity team roster consisted of mostly seniors but also had a few sophomores come up including Luke Alli, Craig Rogers, Michael Corbi, and Marcus Suri. Despite the high number of seniors, the Varsity team had a tough year against skilled MIAA opponents, coming out winless and taking a loss in the playoffs to the Loyola Dons. MSJ Varsity rugby competed in two tournaments this year: the Frostbite tournament back in February and the Mount Saint Mary’s tournament. The team did fairly well in both, winning four consecutive games in the Frostbite tournament until losing in the championship. Fast-forward to April, where the Varsity team took a win over Virginia Beach, but lost two close games to some of the toughest competition in the tournament. On paper, the Varsity rugby team for Mount Saint Joseph may not look that good, until you see the senior talent and their bright futures. Many seniors will be playing rugby in college, such as Tommy Luc (Louisville), Connor Geary (Towson), and Justus Croyle (Loyola – Maryland). There are a few more seniors such as Michael Slattery, John Scavilla, Braden Scranton, and Brendan O’Brien who will all be attending Salisbury, in hopes of showcasing their talent to play for their rugby squad.
The JV squad at Mount Saint Joseph lived up to the standards that were set by the JV team last year. The JV team was a melting pot, with freshman coming from the bottom, sophomores, and a few skilled juniors who played with the JV team in need of experience. The lack of experience, despite the few juniors, hurt them in game one of the season vs. Loyola, where the Gaels took a tough loss 17-7. The young Gaels shook it off though and started to play together as a team in game 2 vs. the Spalding Cavaliers. The JV team came out strong together taking a crushing victory 70-0, and shaking off the loss from the week before. At 1-1, the JV team needed a victory over Calvert Hall and also needed Loyola to defeat the Cards as well. After falling 12-0 in the first half, the Gaels needed leadership to help complete its comeback in order to make it to the championship. That’s where sophomores Austin Bradley, Sergio Villafane and Victor Doda, and juniors Matthew Pederson, Ryan Bibeau, and Fitz Curran helped take over the game. The Gaels took care of business and bounced back completing the comeback with a 17-12 victory over Calvert Hall. The JV Gaels were on a roll and on their way to the championship, but first had the Mount Saint Mary’s tournament where they went 2-1 taking victories over West End and West Shore. The one loss came to Gonzaga where the Gaels made themselves a tough opponent, only losing by 7. The season was on the final stretch for the JV team where they got to host the championship vs. the one team they lost to, the Loyola Dons. The Gaels played a rough and sloppy game, but hung in for the most part. Despite their best efforts, they could not come out on top losing by 7, 19-12. After the game, the JV team did not dwell in this championship loss, but used it as motivation to make sure they finish the job off next year.
Having 15 out of the 23 players on the Varsity roster being seniors, that leaves plenty of room for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors to fill those spots. Many juniors started earlier and more such as Estaban Benson who was injured early in the season vs. Spalding, Gannon Conrad, Sam Borsch, and Owen and Sean Zaleski have high potential to be playing on the Varsity squad next year. Also, with being coached by only 6 coaches on all levels (F/S, JV, Varsity), the team cooperated very well in practices in order to perform well in games. Head Coach, Mr. Hoffman stated in the beginning of the season how if you play rugby at Mount Saint Joseph, you play for MSJ rugby. You do not play “MSJ Varsity Rugby”, not “MSJ JV Rugby”, not “F/S Rugby” because at any given moment one could be pulled up or pushed down and he doesn’t care how good you are, he want his players to play as a team. And after this season, you can see that his players did that, play as a team.