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.