Rugby advances to Sweet 16 of nationals with win over Southern Connecticut

After an explosive game against the No. 9 Southern Connecticut State University Black Attack, the No. 23 Oswego State men’s rugby team, the Wizards, will move on to the next round of the national playoffs.

On Saturday, the Wizards took on the SCSU Black Attack at Hidden Fields and came out on top with an impressive 67-12 win.

The victory was astonishing for the team that went in thinking it would be a much harder game, said Reid Adler, one of the coaches.

“We all shocked ourselves with the win,” Adler said. “We were told the team was going to be good, and they kind of didn’t even show up. They just kind of sat there, didn’t really make their tackles, do what they were supposed to do. They just kind of let the game get away from them.”

During the game, one player stood out among the rest, said Adler and Luke Lindsay, a fellow teammate.

Kevin “Hobbes” Collins, a freshman who had never played rugby, came out and scored two tries about five minutes apart, Adler and Lindsay said. Adler said to see Collins’ transition from not knowing anything about rugby to being a starter has been amazing.

Other scorers during Saturday’s game were Sam “Dick Sherm” Baker, John “Hot John” Kilkenny, Garrett “Fat Garrett” MacKenzie, Sean Loughlin, Kyle “Jumanji” Alexanian and Bryan Czarnecki, who each scored one try. Colton Charles and Kevin Morgan each scored two.

The team now finds itself heading back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years. Back in 2014, the team lost to the University of Vermont, and then in 2015, the team lost to the University of Rhode Island.

For Lindsay, the upcoming game has him feeling a multitude of emotions, but he said his mindset is on winning.

“I’m a little nervous. I feel like you can’t go into any game being not nervous at all,” Lindsay said. “You always have to see your next game as a challenge or you’re not going to get any better. I’ve got butterflies, but I think we can beat them.”

If the Wizards win Saturday’s game, they will then turn around and play the winner from the other side of the bracket on Sunday. The winner from this weekend’s matches will move on to the Final Four.

Karl Schroeder, one of four team captains, said playing two back-to-back games will be interesting as far as physical capabilities go, but having eight reserves will definitely come in handy.

“It helps us a lot, and the coolest part about that is those guys step it up every single day because they could all easily be starters, but that’s where having those eight guys is so important this far into the season,” Schroeder said. “When you have to play two games back to back, Saturday and Sunday, that’s just so much on your body. “

This year’s Sweet 16 game will be hosted in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where they will face the University of Hartford Hawks. There is no home-field advantage for either team this round, but Adler said the neutral site would be “one of the pitches we’ve played on all season.”

Going into the next game, Adler said he is just going to tell the team the same thing as always: just have fun.

This week, instead of the usual practice Monday evening, the team watched game footage from their last match. They also prepared by looking up YouTube film of the Hawks to get an idea of how they play.

As far as the team’s mindset goes, Schroeder said their motto of “train, don’t stop” is what keeps them going.

“We’ve pretty much have the mindset that it could be our last game, so if we don’t give it everything we have, then what’s the point of even going down there,” Schroeder said. “We’re full throttle.”

Photo: Austin Dearborn | The Oswegonian