Springfield College Rugby entered this season coming off the best statistical year in the program’s history.
A member of the NEWCRC (New England Wide Collegiate Rugby Conference), Springfield went 7-0 last Fall, advancing to the Division 2 National Tournament in Pittsburgh, Penn. In its opening game, the Pride were trounced 77-14 by the No. 2 seed University of Wisconsin Whitewater, which went on to lose in the tournament championship the following day to University of Minnesota Duluth..
This past spring, the program defeated rival Western New England for the third straight season, and knocked off one of the top teams in the area, Boston College.
“Last fall we had a really solid team, one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of,” said senior captain Brian Perry. “It was really incredible. During our spring season, we won the rivalry cup against Western New England, we played Boston College and beat them, and then in our annual alumni game we had a lot of fun.”
Heading into this fall, Springfield accepted that it was going to be without some top seniors from last year, and was fully prepared to come out every weekend and compete for a NEWCRC cup with a group of talented returners.
“With a different core of people we pulled it together and have had a pretty solid year,” said Perry. “We have new players, a new coach, and a new team in our conference. We didn’t play Coast Guard last year.”
The team has seen effort and enthusiasm from its supporting players as well, making it easier for chemistry to develop between teammates, regardless of age or year.
Grad Student and fourth-year player Devin Cameron has seen potential in quite a few of the team’s young athletes.
“There have been an overwhelming number of newcomers playing this year,” said Cameron. “Many of them have stepped up and showed that they have what it takes to be successful in rugby. We are extremely excited for the spring season.”
Mike Vigliotti, a senior fourth-year player as well as president of the rugby club, acknowledged the strong bonds between players, an obvious sign of hard work and a common focus.
“Everybody is pretty close, we’re always out together,” said Vigliotti. “We’re good friends, and we definitely get a little lax sometimes because the chemistry is so good. It’s better to have good chemistry with your teammates and be laid back than be high strung and have no chemistry at all.”
Following a week-one win over Worcester Polytech, Springfield traveled to New London to face Coast Guard in what everyone knew was the game of the year if they wanted to return to Pittsburgh in November.
“They were good,” said Vigliotti. “Probably the best team we’ve ever played against in our conference.”
Coast Guard came out on top 26-10, even though Springfield held a tight lead for most of the game. Coast Guard has since gone on to sweep the remainder of the NEWCRC and put themselves in position to make another run at the National Championship.
In its third game, Springfield lost to the University of Hartford in what many players felt was a slip up, something that shouldn’t have happened. The team made its comeback in the following weeks, defeating Westfield State and Quinnipiac in big back to back wins at home, bumping their record to 3-2.
Last Saturday, Springfield hosted Central Connecticut State in a game that ended in forfeit due to a Springfield player being punched in the face during play. The CCSU player was given a yellow card by the referee, warranting a temporary suspension from the game, like that of being in the penalty box in hockey. The referee didn’t see the full play in question, one that should have warranted an immediate ejection, so when Springfield administrators requested that the player leave campus, CCSU complied knowing they could protest the forfeit, and the game was ended in the middle of the first half.
“The referee couldn’t see how bad it was. He went with his gut feeling, and people on the outside said it should have been a red. We ended up forfeiting the game and we were winning 14-0 at the time,” said Vigliotti.
At 3-3, with the final game of the season set for this Friday at 7 p.m. on Schmid Field against Western Connecticut State, the seniors look back on the season as something to be proud of, and there is still a possibility of a postseason game later this month as well as a guaranteed tournament this Spring.
“We may play in a bowl game for third or fourth place in the league,” said Perry. “Next Spring, we’re going to play Western New England and head down to the Beast of the East in Rhode Island and we have a chance to take first place.”
“Every year I’ve been here we’ve beat Western New England, and I definitely want to beat them my senior year,” added Vigilotti. “I really hope to win Beast, we’ve come close so many times.”
Ian Peloquin and Jay Bonti were the teams coaches this season. As alumni, Peloquin and Bonti are familiar with the history and traditions of the program, and have played with several guys currently on the team.
“A few of us had the opportunity to play alongside Ian as he grew up with the program,” said Perry. “Now that he’s taken over, he’s doing an incredible job. He knows how our team works, knows how the league is put together, and just knows what you have to do to win as a player.”
Bonti, a Springfield College graduate in the class of 2016, was a senior captain and a key member of the national tournament team last fall, and is now an essential piece to the coaching staff.
“Ian and Jay have done a tremendous job as new coaches,” said Cameron. “They both played at Springfield College, so having someone that knows our system definitely made it a smooth transition for us as players. I’m looking forward to what tricks they have up their sleeves for the Spring season.”
John can be reached on Twitter at @JGrim44