BY Caroline Bolletino
The Sacred Heart University X-Men rugby team lost 64-0 in their Conference Championship game against the University of Vermont on Saturday, Oct. 27. Vermont is the number 1 team in the country for Division II rugby.
Heading into the game, the team focused on embracing the opportunity and playing, “their brand of rugby.”
“We came up short against a very well rounded team that has been dominant all year,” said junior lock Kenneth Ekert, who is also a staff reporter for the Spectrum Newspaper. “We felt confident going into the game, but the results did not go in our favor.”
The team lost some of their starting players in their Semifinals Conference game against Coast Guard Academy on Oct. 21.
Given the stakes, the game against Coast Guard Academy was the biggest game of the season for Sacred Heart. Both teams entered the game with the same record, at 3-2 overall. Whoever lost would be eliminated from posteason play. Sacred Heart defeated Coast Guard, 17-10.
“After that game I was excited for our players, but was also concerned about how banged up half of our starters were,” said head coach Ray Peterson.
At the beginning of the season, the team lost their All-American and co-captain, senior Joe Cutrone, to a broken leg in a preseason game. The team lost seven starters at various times throughout the season due to injuries.
They lost their other two co-captains, junior Jack Connelly, who suffered a thumb injury, and senior Michael Vozzella. Two other starters were also injured heading into the Conference Championship.
The two others were senior flanker Ryan Welby and sophomore fullback/wing Ryan Schwab. It was because of these losses, that the team had to adjust players to new positions and different lineups within a few practices.
“The ‘next man up’ has consistently stepped in and allowed us to succeed,” said Peterson. “We have a very strong mental constitution when we need it most.”
The team’s future will be determined this week as to whether or not they will play in a “play-in game,” which is similar to a wild-card game. It gives the team a chance to play in the National Tournament.
“Since we have a good amount of off time, it gives us a chance for those who are injured to rest up and get back for Nationals,” said Ekert.
Peterson said that the team has developed a trust of one another. He also said that the team has overcome more adversity than any of the four teams he has coached at Sacred Heart.
“The X-Men are resilient, they play with huge hearts” said Peterson. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m exceptionally proud of how tough minded and passionate this team is.”