Saturday, when the men’s rugby team takes the pitch against Trinity, they will play for more than a regular season win. The Bulldogs will be fighting to salvage their postseason hopes.
With last weekend’s game against Central Connecticut State canceled because the CCSU administration banned the Blue Devil squad from intercollegiate competition, the Elis (1-1) are left with only one more chance to improve their record before the New England Championships Oct. 26. Even if the Elis defeat the Trolls, a playoff spot is not guaranteed.
Captain Micah Block ’03 said the Bulldogs did not expect their playoff chances to be so slim this late in the season.
“We had pretty high hopes for this season,” Block said. “The nature of our league is that if you drop one game, you’re pretty much out of the playoffs.”
Even if the Bulldogs are just playing for pride, Block said the match against Trinity will not be an easy one.
“I expect Trinity to be a tough test for the team, but we’ve got what it takes to win,” Block said.
The Trolls will test the Bulldogs’ technical skills on the field, but the Elis will not have a difficult time matching up physically with the team they defeated 41-7 at home last year.
“They’ve been a good team, but they’re small like we are, so we’ve been able to outplay them a little bit [in the past],” rugby president Mark Marion ’03 said.
Even if the Bulldogs defeat the Trolls, it is uncertain whether a recovery from their season-opening loss to the Coast Guard Academy Sept. 21 will be enough to propel them into the postseason. Poor refereeing and the graduation of last year’s strong senior class have had a negative impact on the Elis’ results so far this year, Block said.
Although rugby referees are usually certified by the New England Rugby Football Union, the referee in the Bulldogs’ game against the Coast Guard Academy was not league certified and did not call a penalty when a Bears player kicked Block’s face at the end of a play. The injury forced Block to miss the rest of the game with a broken nose.
Although the player has since been suspended, Block’s absence from the field for the last few weeks has hindered the Elis’ offensive and defensive performance, team member Garan Geist ’06 said.
Block will not play this weekend against Trinity.
“I was involved in the play and was lying on the ground when it ended,” Block said. “It was the most egregious example of foul play I have ever seen in my athletic career.”
In addition to problems with refereeing, the team graduated several starters from last year, Marion said.
“We’ve lost a big number of seniors, the big guys,” Marion said. “Since I’ve been a freshman, [the class of 2002] was the biggest class I’ve seen.”
After the Bulldogs play Trinity, they will face Princeton at home Nov. 15 before playing Harvard in Cambridge Nov. 22. Block said he will try to schedule more games in upcoming weeks.
For the remainder of the season, Block said there are still some technical points that require extra attention in practice.
“Our backs need to be more dynamic; they’re playing a little too far into the backfield,” Block said. “We’ll be focusing more on fluidity in the back. The forwards need to work on body position.”
Even if the Bulldogs improve their play in the backfield this weekend, they may still find themselves out of the New England Championships for the first time in three years.