By Jared Spohr
The Willamette men’s rugby team has risen from a winless squad for the last four years to league champions this year. They earned themselves a national ranking. National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) ranked the boys at No. 46 overall in the nation. Led by head coach Joe Dan Boyd and senior team captains Steve Peters, Sean Rhodes, Dylan Tooley and Eli Butcher, the team has been more dominant than ever this season.
“We have great team chemistry. There has been a huge improvement in the sophomores’ ability, and we have an excellent coach who pushes us to be at our best,” said sophomore John Gray.
Rhodes posted on the team’s Facebook page about their recent success.
“From rags to riches. It has been a long road, from no wins in four years to league champions. With a 22-17 victory over Seattle University, our club is progressing to the national D3 championships in California this semester. We thank all our Alumni for their support, all our fans who give us love and each and every member of our club for their dedication, effort and tenacity. For every hard fought win is a dedicated support network, thank you all,” he said in the post.
They are heading to the West Coast Finals.
“Focusing during game time and not allowing yourself to become too hyper is something that has been working for me this season. I have to focus on playing my own game and doing my job,” said sophomore Chiron McDermott.
This year’s team features seven seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and two freshmen. A good amount of the team’s members are guys that never played rugby before they got to college.
“I wouldn’t play if it wasn’t for the close knit brotherhood” said McDermott.
All of the players I talked to stressed that the deep brotherhood formed by being a member of the team is of the utmost importance to their success.
“We have a core group of guys, with a team dynamic in which everyone holds everyone accountable. We have very consistent, productive practices and our coach is very committed to making us better rugby players,” said senior Tyler Harris.
With a bit of a break until the team competes in the West Coast Finals, the Bearcats are hungry for more.
They look eagerly ahead to the first weekend of April when they will travel to Vallejo, California to compete in the West Coast Finals. The best of luck to them as they grind through practice for the next several weeks before their next big test.