This weekend is the men’s rugby club’s (0-2) chance to prevent a spring season repeat of its autumn season’s disappointing end.
After narrowly missing the fall season’s playoffs, the squad hopes for a stronger showing this weekend at the Ivy League Championship at the New York Athletic Club home field. The tournament was moved from its original Dartmouth site.
The team’s woes from fall crept into the early part of the spring season. Yale lost its first two matches and is seeded No. 7 in the eight-team tournament. The Bulldogs will face No. 2 seed Cornell in the first round Saturday.
“We’re fairly confident,” captain Micah Block ’03 said. “In the past, we’ve played Cornell strong in the Ivy’s.”
Two years ago, Yale defeated Cornell in the first round of the Ivy League Championship, and Block thinks the Elis can do it again after learning from mistakes in their two spring season games.
In the Bulldogs’ first spring match on March 29, Yale was shut out at home by Bede RFC, a visiting club from Durham University in England.
“We put up a very good effort against them,” said Block, who became familiar with international competition at age 11 after moving to New Zealand, where he played rugby “socially.”
In Yale’s second spring match on April 5, at home against Providence College, a gutsy defensive performance was hindered by unfavorable penalties, leading to a 15-7 loss. Starting flanker Matt Pawlowicz ’04 said scheduling conflicts forced the Providence coach to officiate the game.
Penalties offset several Bulldog attempts to tie the score.
“There were a few instances where we had taken the ball inside their 22, but because of a penalty, they got the ball and kicked it upfield,” Pawlowicz said.
Mike Atkins ’05 scored the team’s lone try. Pawlowicz said he would like to see the team support the ball better in Ivy League play.
But the Bulldogs would be satisfied this weekend at the New York Athletic Club’s pitch with a repeat of their defensive performance against Providence College, led by outside-center Andrew Williams ’04.
“The defense did an excellent job,” Pawlowicz said. “From being down three starters, [the defense] still did an excellent job tackling.”
Three of Yale’s regular defenders were unable to compete against Providence due to injury.
The team also has struggled with inexperience, particularly in the fall season. With the loss of several seniors from last year, the club is now largely comprised of inexperienced freshmen and sophomores. Pawlowicz said this was the first season in his three years that freshmen have had extended experience playing “A-side.”
Yale has an A-team, called the A-side, and a B-team, called the B-side.
“We didn’t achieve as much success as we would have liked in the fall,” Pawlowicz said. “That can be attributed to some players not being ready for the roles thrust upon them.”
After a challenging but educational fall season, and demonstrating improvement this spring, the squad hopes to upset Cornell Saturday and face other Ivy League opponents in later rounds. The tournament includes two Saturday games and one Sunday game for each team.
“We have a much better shot against Princeton and Harvard [now],” said “B-side” flanker Nick Moscow ’06. “We had a number of inexperienced guys who weren’t used to working together, but now we’ve got a few more games under our belt, and I think we’ll have a better chance against these guys than we did last fall.”
Win or lose, the team is guaranteed three grueling games this weekend.
“Playing three games of rugby in a weekend is tough,” Block said. “But we still look forward to it.”