Men’s Rugby Shapes Up For New Season After Losing Star Players

Krystin Paine, Contributing Writer

    Men’s rugby at UMF has been gaining more attention lately as the team has proven to be a competitive force with multiple championship wins in recent years. The team holds high hopes for the upcoming season despite the loss of some talented players.

    Jack Neary, a senior, is optimistic about how the current team is shaping up. “We have definitely lost a good amount of talent on the team in the last year, but we have players who are stepping up and filling those roles,” he said. “That’s the great part about the sport, when you lose a senior, a new player has something to prove in the upcoming season.”

    The club started in 1991 with only about 15 people. Since then, the men’s rugby team has been the Maine Cup Champs in 2011, 2013 and 2014, won the New England Rugby Football Union Championship for the past two years, and had undefeated seasons in 2017 and 2018. This year’s team is trying to repeat all of these successes and more.

    Neary is preparing for his last year as a UMF rugby player after returning to the team for the past five years. He talked about how the team has affected him and changed his life for the better. “It’s had a positive impact in the sense that it’s introduced me to a sport I knew virtually nothing about when I started. I really enjoy playing it and I want to attempt to play when I’m finished here at UMF,” he said. “I think my impact on the team has been pretty minimal in the sense that I am a small piece of a large puzzle.”

    He says the team is also working on chemistry between players by making sure the new members, “feel comfortable working with some of the veteran and returning players.” 

    Sam Urszinyi, a sophmore, played last spring and is returning for his first fall semester with the team, has some things to say about veterans helping newer players. “They try to make sure that you understand positioning a lot in games and practices,” he said. “They try to tell us to focus on the basics in a Bill Belicheck, ‘do your job,’ environment and increasing defensiveness and ball security. I’ve been watching a lot more rugby which I’m hoping will aid in my game sense.” He also said that rugby has taught him better time management and commitment.

    Another player, Davion Jackson, returning for his second year, said that the team plans “on repeating the [winning] streak this year by continuing to practice hard and keep everyone healthy every game.”

    Jackson also said he found a support system in the team during his time as a player. “Honestly, the rugby team has had a big effect on me throughout my first year of college here at UMF. It’s helped me through some pretty tough times and the camaraderie just made me feel more like I belonged here considering there aren’t that many people who look like me around here.”

    Like Neary, Jackson is also hopeful for how the new players can make up for what the team has lost. “As of now, we have a lot of new guys who are ambitious to play the game, but aren’t really knowledgeable on the game quite yet,” he said, “but the chemistry and willingness to learn more is there.”

    The opening game of the season is on Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. They will be playing against the University of Maine on UMF’s Prescott field. The game is open to the public with free admission. For more information, contact Erin Buckland or Kristen Swan.

A Beaver For The Books: Erin Buckland

By Libby Shanahan Contributing Writer

   From racing down snowy mountains of western Maine, to scoring a try while playing rugby with some of the best collegiate female athletes in the Floridian flatlands, Erin Buckland – junior, Officer of Club Affairs (OCA) of Student Senate, and general studies major – sheds light on her exciting life as a UMF Beaver.

   A Farmington native, Buckland attended the nearby snow sports academy Carrabassett Valley Academy, (CVA) where she was able to hone in on her alpine racing abilities while competing alongside some of the best in the business. “I have always been competitive and dedicated to what I decide to do,” said Buckland. “With that being said, being in that environment gave me an edge that I have been able to see transfer over into my day to day life.”

   Since first arriving to UMF in 2016, Buckland has gotten involved in several on-campus leadership roles, clubs, and organizations – even working her way to becoming the student-assistant alpine coach. “I’m not quite sure how it all began, like I don’t think that there was a huge moment where I realized that this was what I wanted to do,” Buckland said, “I guess I sort of came into these positions with not only a clear idea of the changes that I wanted to make, but how I wanted to be involved.”

   Buckland is an active member of Student Senate. She first began as a senator but has now moved into the executive role of OCA. Among many duties, Buckland primarily oversees the functioning of all clubs on campus, and assures that all clubs are using funds properly and keeping up to date on proper documentation.

  Buckland has a personal goal that she wishes to tackle before leaving her position as OCA. “I want to make it so that clubs, both sports and regular clubs alike, have someone that they can see as a sounding board in Senate,” Buckland explained, “When I first had a got elected to E-board for rugby as Vice President of the women’s team, I was shocked at how much shuffling around from different offices and people that you had to do just to get your club remotely on the books.”

   Perhaps Buckland’s most gleaming passion is for the rugby team. Buckland described her first season as a rookie on the team, “I was completely new to the sport, but I also had a feeling that I had met a solid group of girls who kicked a**, as cliche as that may sound.” No stranger to hard work, Buckland picked up the sport within weeks and scored her first “try” (which is worth five points, the maximum amount of points that can be scored).

   After her first season, Buckland was elected vice president of the team. Shortly thereafter, her talents and accomplishments were recognized and moved into the captain/president role on the team. “I take being captain and president very seriously, and it really means a lot that the girls trust me to be that position,” said Buckland.

   “I guess I was just excited that I was able to find something that ultimately has become one of my favorite things to do, and hopefully something that I could turn into a career,” said Buckland.

   “Now that I have some coaching experience on the hill, and even though the sports are vastly different, I keep toying with the idea of coaching rugby,” Buckland said. “Even though I never thought that I would go to UMF, I am glad that I did… I don’t think that I would have come into these positions anywhere else.”

Insight into Women’s Rugby with Captain Erin Buckland

Insight into Women’s Rugby with Captain Erin Buckland

By Journey Bubar Contributing Writer

Buckland has been playing on the Women’s Rugby team since freshman year at UMF and is looking forward to another promising season with her teammates.

   Since Women’s Rugby is a club sport, they usually don’t have enough players to fill the 15 field positions, but this year Buckland is happy to see a large number

The women’s Rugby team engages in a scrum. (Photo courtesy of Erin Buckland)

of new recruits. “Sometimes we wouldn’t have any subs, so by the end of the 80-minute game, we’d only have 13 players left on the field,” said Buckland.

   Buckland mentioned that new players aren’t expected to know everything about the game, and that the coaches and fellow players are happy to teach the rookies everything they need to know. “If you put the time and work in, everyone can do it. That’s the thing about rugby, it’s a really easy game to fall in love with,” said Buckland.

  Buckland explained that having rugby be a club sport presents some challenges. “I think that we’re sometimes looked at and treated differently for being a club sport,” Buckland said. “It’s hard to recruit varsity athletes because they want to stick with the level they’re playing at, so they don’t even take a look at rugby which is sad, because they should.”

   Another challenge the team faces is that the UMF Fleet doesn’t always have enough passenger vans to fulfill the demand between clubs and other sports teams, even when filing the van application on time. “I don’t know the official order, but I know that club sports are last,” Buckland said.

   Buckland explained that without consistent access to UMF vans, the team has had to rent passenger vans from a third-party which costs more, or they have to their personal cars certified so they can drive to their games.

  Buckland explained how every position and player is vital to the game, and how people should give rugby a chance even if they aren’t sure about it. “Since it’s a team sport, every single person needs to be doing their job or we’re not going to succeed,” said Buckland.

  Before their Saturday games, the team likes to have a Friday night dinner to prepare and bond. “We always try to have a rugby game playing in the background,” said Buckland. “It helps the rookies know what to expect.”

  Practicing is also really important before big games. They warm up, do some drills, and scrimmage each other just like every other sport. But the team really focuses on building communication. “Everything you do in rugby requires communication,” said Buckland.

  Buckland admitted that she still feels a little bit nervous before a game, even after playing for so long. “The previous captain said something that really stuck with me,” said Buckland. “She was like, ‘You have to go out and you have to want it the most.’ And honestly, if you do want it the most, the nerves just go away.”

“So even if I get my van request in on time, if academics or varsity sports wants the vans, they’ll take the Women’s Rugby vans away for them to have.”