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WWU men’s rugby lose West Coast Regional Championship match

As their season ends in loss, Vikings reflect on mistakes made, look forward to redemption next year

The Viking men’s rugby team thanks fans after a season-ending loss. The Vikings were defeated by Fresno State on Saturday, April 17 at the D1AA West Coast Regional Championship. // Photo courtesy of Finn Wendt

Western Washington University’s 15-man rugby team fell short of a national title-game appearance with a season-ending loss to Fresno State on Sunday, April 17 at the Division IAA West Coast Regional Championship match.  

With a final score of 52-15, the Vikings left the pitch in disappointment. Head Coach Paul Horne was not happy about the big loss but took as many positives away as he could from the match. 

“We have never lost by that kind of margin,” Horne said. "We're banged up, and you can just look around and see where some of the guys are walking but their heads are up.”

Though looking beyond the scoreboard, Horne took notice of the grit and passion his players retained regardless of the big deficit. 

“There was no quit in the last few minutes of the game, even though we were down by a considerable score,” Horne said. “We were still fighting and finished off with a try to end it.” 

With a strong record of 9-3 going into tournament weekend, the Vikings had high hopes for their rugby club. Max Stone, a fly and scrum-half freshman described what a win would have meant for the school and his squad. 

“The national championship has evaded us prior,” Stone said. “We could be on the verge of something definitely historical for the club.” 

Elijah Ashmann, a freshman wing on the Viking rugby team had only one club in mind going into the tournament. 

“Coming up, there's only one team that we're really worried about in this tournament,” Ashmann said. “And that's Fresno State.”

Ashmann's worries were warranted, with Fresno State red hot coming off of their undefeated season. Fresno defeated their Pacific West Conference opponents by massive margins, beating University of Nevada, Reno 87-24 in their last victory of the regular season. The team also steamrolled the University of San Diego 46-7 in Saturday’s game to play Western. 

Even after a convincing Western win against Sacramento State on Saturday beating them 36-14, the Vikings were not satisfied with their performance. Desmond Maiava, the “Man of the Match” in Saturday’s game knew they would have to do more to beat Fresno on Sunday. 

WWU men's rugby - 2 of 2

Viking rugby’s fly and scrum-half Max Stone embraces a Fresno State rugby player after a season-ending loss. // Photo courtesy of Finn Wendt

“[We need to be] coming out with more power, more force and more confidence in not only ourselves, but in each other,” Maiava said. “Tomorrow's another day and another game and I feel more confident about my team.”

The Vikings were not able to achieve a win against Fresno State. The Fresno Bulldogs came out with too much power, energy and size for Western to handle. 

Raven Borsey, a fast and aggressive wing for the Vikings, looked back on his team’s lack of drive in the Fresno game. 

“A big reflection of the low energy was our penalty count and just coming out more disciplined next time would prevent that low energy,” he said.

Borsey also left the season-ender with many positive takeaways for his team.

“This battle really proves something to us,” Borsey said. “We can compete with the top teams in the country.”

With the current club including only a small number of upperclassmen, Borsey sees promise in this young squad and is looking forward to opportunities in 2023. 

“We're only losing a couple of players,” Borsey said. “We have a really young team that's going to come back stronger next year, ready to grind and work all offseason.”

Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn (he/him) is the editor in chief for The Front this quarter. He began working at the Front in the spring of 2022 as a sports reporter. 

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