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.”

UMF Men’s Rugby Tackles England

UMF Men’s Rugby Tackles England

By Keely McConomy Contributing Writer

The UMF Men’s Rugby Team has enjoyed a successful season since returning from England. (Photo by Liam Brinkler)

  Recently, UMF Men’s Rugby team traveled to England to improve their skills for the upcoming spring season, and experience the sport to its full potential.

   The team landed in Manchester, England, and traveled through the expansive sheep-filled fields during the four hour drive to Hexham, England. The 18 members of the UMF team and ten alumni, including coach Tony Solis, stayed in bunk houses that were crammed and cozy, making it so all the players could do was eat, sleep and breathe rugby.

  The men played four games in their travels that put their skills to the test. They competed against teams that consisted of members who have been “playing since they were five years old,” said Liam Brinkler, a second year rugby player for UMF.

   Playing the English teams taught the UMF men much more about rugby. Through the games against high caliber teams, Brinkler and the UMF squad were able to show their skills and better themselves.

  “It’s such a better atmosphere to learn and grow, the other guys would give us advice off the field,” Brinkler said. “On the field you’re enemies, but off the field you’re friends.”

   The games were not the only way they were able to advance their rugby skills. The team had the opportunity to work with former professional rugby player from England National Team Chris Jones. Working with Jones resonated with the men.

   “He’s really smart,” said David Kimmel, also a second year rugby player.

   The team was able to learn lots techniques from Jones. “We learned a lot about defensive formations, which is something that we don’t really focus on in the States. He had knowledge that people here seem to overlook,” said Kimmel.

   For current coach and former rugby player Tony Solis, this trip was not only about developing skills related to the sport, it was about fully experiencing the true traditions of rugby. Solis had been on the trip when he was a player, so he was privy to all the knowledge and culture that his men would benefit from.

   “Our guys got to see how various traditions get handed down, and how different club rugby in the UK is than University rugby,” said Solis in an email interview. “On top of it all for me was solidifying old relationships as well as creating new relationships with guys halfway across the world that share the commonality of rugby,” Solis said.

   Solis went on to say, “I hope that we continue as a community of Maine rugby to develop relationships with other squads in a similar vein: Fierce competitors on the field, and members of the brotherhood of rugby off it.”

   Both Kimmel and Brinkler are excited about “Beast of the East,” a collegiate rugby tournament, hoping to show off their improved individual and team skills. In a recent schrimidge against Bates College, Kimmel saw the improvement first hand. “Once we started focusing on what Chris [Jones] had said I think some of us, who were on the tour, figured it out and it clicked a little bit more,” siad Kimmel.

   Brinkler has his heart set on getting the gold at “Beast of the East.” “We lost in the plate championship last year. But I’m very confident, we had a very good team and we’ve even added a couple players,” said Brinkler.

   Beast of the East will be held in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on April 14 and 15.

Woody Hanstein: Man Of Many Hats

Woody Hanstein: Man Of Many Hats

By Nick Bray, Staff Reporter

Woody Hanstein. (Photo Courtesy of UMF)

Woody Hanstein. (Photo Courtesy of UMF)

There probably isn’t anyone in the state of Maine with a resume quite like Walter “Woody” Hanstein’s. In the fall semester, it isn’t unusual for Hanstein to work a full day at his law practice, then head down to the rugby pitch at Prescott Field to coach the Women’s rugby team, then to a classroom at UMF to teach his weekly law seminar.

Hanstein’s law career began in 1979 when he graduated the University of Idaho with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Hanstein is a former navy JAG and former assistant district attorney for the state of Maine. He began his own law practice in 1987 in Farmington.

Throughout his time in school and while in the Navy, Hanstein played and coached rugby. In the late 1980’s, Hanstein coached rugby at Colby College. Hanstein approached UMF’s athletic director in the early 1990’s about starting a rugby team. His law partner at the time, Pat Joyce, had a son, Kevin, who was currently attending UMF. “Kevin had played football at Mt. Blue,” Hanstein said. “So he and a few of his friends and myself started the team in 1991.”

The UMF rugby program is known for being successful but they are even more known for their unique green and gold uniforms. “We have almost exclusively played in the colors of green and gold because it was the only set of rugby uniforms available just a few days before our first game,” Hanstein said.

Starting as the coach of the men’s team, Hanstein switched to coaching the women’s team after their coach left and the assistant coach became the men’s head coach. President and Captain of the Women’s rugby team, Emily Gray, has been involved in the team her entire time at UMF. “Woody teaches you a lot about the game,” Gray said. Not just the skills but he wants you to know how the game works and helping to increase players’ rugby knowledge. “

Hanstein has also been teaching law courses at UMF since 2000, drawing on his experiences as a lawyer to educate students about the legal system. Hanstein believes that using real life cases to make points about the legal system makes it easier for students to relate and understand. In addition to playing rugby, Emily Gray has also taken Hanstein’s law class. “Woody always has little anecdotes and they always come up when he’s teaching or coaching,” Gray said. “He coaches a lot like he teaches, by teaching by example”.

Cadi LaCourse is another student who took Hanstein’s course. LaCourse agrees that Hanstein’s teaching style helped her learn more about the legal system. ”It was much more interesting than reading a text book,” LaCourse said. LaCourse believes she learned more because he is a practicing attorney. “A lot of the course was Woody teaching us to think for ourselves, to use the facts and evidence to support our theories and opinions.”

His law and the legal system course provides an overview of the justice system, but also puts an emphasis on civil rights.“It’s a fine line between informing people about their rights, and explaining to them how to get away with breaking the law,” Hanstein said. “I think a course like Law and the Legal System should be mandatory before students finish high school. They should be able to understand their basic legal rights.”

Hanstein says several students who have taken his course have gone on to law school and are now practicing lawyers in Maine. “I recently saw an assistant district attorney in Kennebec county who I had to beg for a plea bargain, and he took my class,” Hanstein said. “I was trying to remember if I had been nice to him.”

In his spare time Hanstein pursues other interests including fiction writing. He is the author of six legal thrillers featuring small town lawyer Pete Morris. In addition, Hanstein serves as a member of the Titcomb Mountain Ski Patrol. He also directs the Smiling Goat Precision Juggling Corps. “I like to say I am the international founder of parade marching juggling,” Hanstein said. “Nobody else would have bothered to try.”

They march in local parades including the Wilton Blueberry Festival and the Chester Greenwood Day parade. To entertain lawyers at the bar association, Hanstein created a youtube video titled “Juggling for Lawyers.” Hanstein’s brief, four minute tutorial was filmed in the historic Franklin County Superior Courthouse.

Hanstein knows he made the right decision in moving to Farmington. “After getting out of the Navy I could have been an ADA in Portland, Machias, or Farmington,” Hanstein said. “My wife and I came to Farmington and we knew right then this was the place for us. We were right.”

Between his involvement in Rugby and his teaching, Hanstein spends more time with people who are significantly younger than he is than people his own age. Hanstein believes this keeps him young. He even takes life lessons from his students. “You take less for granted. When you see someone see something for the first time that you’ve seen forever, you just appreciate it that much more.”

Through his capacity as coach and teacher, Hanstein has had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to many students. “Woody is an adult in my life I look up to,” Gray said. “He is always ready to help anyone on the team, with anything. If I have an issue I’m not afraid to call Woody and talk about it.”