Author: Lena Smith
For the second time in three years, the Occidental men’s rugby team will enter post-season play with an undefeated record. The team will soon be headed to the tournament that could put them in the national championship game, and both the players and Directors of Rugby Dallen Stanford and Patrick Guthrie (’86) are optimistic about the team’s chances.
The Blackshirts are competitors in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO), which organizes the national championships for Division III and Division IV rugby teams. Occidental has already won the Pacific Coast Cup in a tournament held March 23-24. They traveled to Vallejo, Calif. to defeat Puget Sound 39-20 and Cal Maritime 25-10.
They travel next to Glendale, Colo. for the PacWest Regional Championships. By reaching the regional championships, Occidental has earned a spot among the top 16 teams in the country.
In their opening game on April 6, the Blackshirts will face Benedictine, the current Heart of America Champions from Atchison, Kan. If Occidental wins, the squad will go on to the semifinal matchup and face either the University of Denver or compete in a rematch against Cal Maritime. A victory against either team will guarantee a trip to the final four on April 27.
“We already played Cal Maritime in the Pacific Qualifier and so we kind of know how they play, but we don’t know anything about Denver,” Stanford said. “Plus, they have altitude advantage from being the local team.”
Despite Denver’s potential advantage, the coaches are confident in the Blackshirts. They have a lot of pride in the ability of this year’s players to act as a team.
“The greatest asset to this team is how the guys play for each other,” Guthrie said. “Any championship team will have a good relationship between forwards and backs.”
According to Guthrie, this year’s team has been successful because of the players’ potent combination of physical and mental ability. “They are extraordinarily mature, serious and committed to winning nationals and nothing less,” he said.
Club president Max Horten (senior) and Barnaby Audsley (junior) are both key players and leaders on the field. Horten has made numerous important plays on the field throughout the season and Audsley was awarded MVP of the Pacific Coast Cup.
With all of their assets, one of the team’s greatest obstacles is the financial implication of traveling to out-of-state tournaments, which can cost around $15,000. As a club sport, the team receives minimal backing from the school. Through a combination of alumni support and t-shirt sales supported by the business Rugby Period, the team supplements the cost of the trips. They also retain a portion of the money they raise for the non-profit organization Tackling Cancer, which funds cancer research.
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