Rugby fall short of conference championship repeat
The men’s rugby team had a great turnout, Monday, April 9, as they attempted to defend their Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference title against the University of Washington Huskies in a rematch of last year’s conference championship game. The stands were packed with students and family members.
But, despite their best efforts, the Vikings came up short against the Huskies, falling 13-18.
Sophomore fullback Noah Hanks said the team was focused going into the game, but weren’t completely able to pull through.
“We’re pretty young and so we’ve got a lot of building blocks to keep going.”
Senior captain Nick Solimano
“We had a great mindset going into the game,” Hanks said. “Everybody could feel it because the vibe was really there, but as our coach said ‘the ball just didn’t bounce our way.’”
Though the Vikings exhibited relentless offensive runs and a relatively impenetrable defensive line, it wasn’t enough. With the win, the Huskies become the new conference champions and are now headed to nationals where they will host Utah State in the Division I-AA playoffs.
The Vikings have come a long way this season, despite the majority of its roster being made up of underclassmen. The team only lost one regular season game this year, a two point loss to Gonzaga in early February.
The Vikings had even defeated the rival Huskies 27-16 early in the season before losing in the conference championship. The irony of this outcome is not lost on senior captain Nick Solimano.
“It’s always a good game when we play [The Huskies] and it is kind of interesting that it ended this way because it’s the opposite of what happened last year,” Solimano said. “We lost to [The Huskies] during the season and then won in the championship. This year we beat them during the season and they won the championship.”
Penalties and errors were a problem for Western, Solimano said. With Washington consistently winning the scrums, Western struggled to gain possessions.
At halftime, the score was tied at 13 after a try was scored by freshman fly half Britt Parkhill and Hanks successfully kicked a field goal along with a penalty kick earlier on in the game.
“Usually at half-time, zero-zero is a big deal so you go in and you’re set up,” Hanks said. “We still have to stay on the gas pedal and execute and we knew that we were playing well, we just needed to play direct rugby but when we came out, we just didn’t get it.”
Regardless of the outcome, Solimano is optimistic about what the team will look like in the future since they are such a young team and only himself and another player are graduating.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good-looking team,” Solimano said. “We’re pretty young and so we’ve got a lot of building blocks to keep going. Our second team has been pretty strong this season and have gone undefeated and it’s awesome to see it.”
Director of rugby and head coach Paul Horne said the Vikings had many things go their favor in the second half they didn’t take advantage of. But, they played good enough to win the game and Horne is positive about the years to come.
“We were a victim of our own mistakes today. We were good enough to win but we didn’t get it done and full credit to [The Huskies], ” Horne said. “It’s kind of hard to take it right now, but we’ll be back. We’ve got a very promising future for the guys that are coming back. Next year they’ll remember what this tastes like and what this felt like and that should be some motivation for them to work harder in the off season.”