By CARTER WALLER
After going 4-3 against conference foes, the team earned a number four seed in the Cardinal Conference playoffs, where they play fifth-seeded Virginia Military Institute.
“What we want to do is achieve the best possible. Mix the experience [on the team] with the inexperience and execute over this weekend,” said senior captain Ben Britten.
The team is made up of nine seniors, but also includes a number of inexperienced freshmen, according to Britten, the team’s starting hooker.
Last season, UMW’s men’s rugby made it all the way to the championship game against James Madison University, but lost 50-17.
Now, JMU is the number one seed going into the tournament after a perfect 7-0 overall in the conference, and they are seeking a possible repeat finale.
The team that wins the Cardinal Conference earns an automatic berth to USA Rugby’s DII college playoffs.
Teams in the conference include JMU, Old Dominion University, Radford University, VMI, Duke University, The College of William & Mary, Longwood University and UMW.
A tough test awaits the men’s rugby team, as they are pitted against a VMI team that also posted a 4-3 record in conference play. In their one head-to-head match up on Sep. 28, the Eagles won 34-28.
“I really think we have the potential to win it all,” said junior men’s rugby president Matthew McAloon. “We were close last year, so I know it’s possible.”
A win against VMI on Nov. 15 would set up UMW to play against whichever team wins in the JMU vs. Longwood game.
The first round of the Cardinal Conference playoffs takes place next weekend and are the only games played for the weekend. The following weekend will feature the two semifinal match ups on Saturday, Nov. 23, and the finals on the next day, Sunday, Nov. 24.
“I expect that ODU will be a very hard team and so will JMU. Heart, heart is what will win us these upcoming games,” said Britten.
ODU is seeded second after finishing with a 6-1 record, losing its last game to JMU 53-20 in a blowout. ODU won a close game with a final score of 24-13 against UMW on Sep. 14.
The men’s rugby team continues their regular practice schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m., and will not shake up the routines during practice too much, according to McAloon.
“We’re just doing the same things we usually do. Same type of drills and such, although there’s been more contact recently,” McAloon said.
The rugby team will have two weeks off in preparation for VMI.
“As captain in my final year it would be an honor to finish my UMW career with a trip to Nationals. The boys just have to believe and execute what we train,” said Britten.