By Will Callahan
The Sacred Heart University Men’s Rugby team had an impressive regular season leading up to the playoffs.
The X-Men went undefeated this season with a 5-0 record. Their most recent victory came on Oct. 16 against Rensselaer Polytechnic, a 103-0 victory.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve done this well, so it feels good to have this much success,” said junior Nick D’Angelo.
Others on the team can also agree their training has paid off.
“We’ve trained really hard and spent a lot of hours on the practice field,” said junior Harrison Picard. “Our 5-0 record shows the hard work we have put in.”
With a team loaded with seniors, experience has been a key part to the X-Men’s season of success so far.
“I think having a team with so many seniors have contributed largely to our success,” said junior Mike Vozella. “We lean on them a lot and they’re always there to help the younger guys out.”
In the five games that the X-Men played, they outscored their opponents 283-68 with wins over Hostra, Siena, Union, Marist and Rensselaer Polytechnic.
Their closest game this year was a 26-24 win over Siena. A last minute conversion was needed for the Pioneers to seal the game and maintain their unbeaten record.
With the win against Marist, the X-Men officially clinched the home field advantage for the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s definitely a better asset for us to have home field advantage,” said D’Angelo. “It’s much easier to just wake up and go play here at home in front of our friends and family.”
Compared to last year’s team who finished 6-3, the 2016 X-Men believe this team is even better than the one from last season.
“We definitely have a better chemistry with our coach and with ourselves as a team this season,” said D’Angelo. “
Each member of the X-Men has contributed to this year’s undefeated season.
“What’s important is that the majority of last year’s starters are still here this year and playing well,” said Vozella. “We have a huge senior class that have been playing together for four years, plus the younger group of guys now adds to our success.”
The team has developed a great relationship with their coach, which has led to the success on the field.
“The relationship we’ve created with Coach Peterson has definitely helped us grow stronger as a team this year,” said Picard. “We really look up to him as our leader and we love to play for him.”
A large team has kept the starting group ready for the beginning of each match.
“I also think the great depth we have on our team helps us as well,” said Picard. “We have close to 40 guys on our squad, so it’s a huge benefit having those back-up players handy to keep the starters fresh and healthy throughout the season.”
With all the pieces coming together for the X-Men, they are happy to be undefeated.
“Of course we think we have what it takes to win it all,” said D’Angelo. “We have huge expectations we set for ourselves not only to win our league, but to play competitively in Nationals and to establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with.”
The team has set high standards for the playoffs, in hopes of becoming champions.
“This is the year to do it,” said Picard. “With everyone we have, we feel good about our chances of becoming champions.”
The goal of the team is to do well in the playoffs in hopes of making the championship.
“To be able to go deep into the playoffs and play competitive rugby will be amazing for us as a team,” said Vozella. “I think our team has the ability to go as far as our athleticism can take us.”
The X-Men will have their first playoff game Sunday Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. on Campus Field against Montclair State University.