As the men’s rugby team grows in membership and improves its on-the-field results, it prepares for a test against their rivals.
On April 3, the men’s rugby team will travel to Lafayette College to compete in one of its biggest rivalry games of the spring season.
Sophomore captain James Wilkinson said the team has more practices than usual this week, since it is preparing for the upcoming match against the Leopards. The team regularly practices three times a week.
Junior Nick Santamarina said practices are a great workout and include drills, sprints and touch-and wrap-around scrimmages. He said each practice varies depending on the team’s upcoming schedule and which team it plays.
At the same time, Wilkinson said that throughout the years, the club teams’ practices usually remain very laid back and fun, even though on game day the intensity is always there.
“The team is also beginning to hit,” Wilkinson said. “We are hoping to also work our set forward plays, but we are also trying to relax a little bit as well. We have beat Lafayette in the past, but last year they just about edged us out.”
Although Friday will be the team’s first game of the season, Wilkinson said that he’s not worried about the match because Lehigh’s team is very strong.
“We have had two good groups of freshmen the past two years,” Wilkinson said. “As we all mature and learn to play together, we are going to get much better.”
The Mountain Hawks, who are part of the Mid Atlantic Conference, have over 30 members on the team, which includes mostly freshmen and sophomores. The team mainly plays schools in the area, including East Stroudsburg University, Slippery Rock University, York College and others.
“Although our team is young, many of the players are really talented and strong,” Santamarina said. “I think within the next couple of years, our team is going to be one of the best in the area. Joining the rugby team here at Lehigh was one of the best decisions I have made, and I’m excited to watch the team progress over time.”
Junior Garett Pan also believes the team is improving and doing better than ever in comparison to previous years.
“Two years ago we did not win any games all season,” Pan said. “Last year we were able to win a game, and this year we won half of our games and have doubled our membership. What is really great about the program is the constant increase of new members we are currently composed of. With a young team, the program will continue to expand in the near future.”
Although Pan will not be able to make the upcoming Lafayette game, he said he knows the Mountain Hawks will fight hard.
The rugby team’s season will continue after its game Friday. However, instead of playing with 15 players on the field at a time, which is the usual arrangement, the team will switch to “Rugby sevens.” Rugby sevens is when there are seven-a-side on the field.
The team plans to have at least one tournament later this month April 11-12. Wilkinson said he’d also like to have another possible tournament April 18, but confirmation is still pending.