Oregon men’s rugby wants to prove it belongs through postseason run
Oregon men’s club rugby wants to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. With the postseason quickly approaching, they have the perfect opportunity to make that statement.
“A win would solidify our standing in the conference and all the work we have put in the last few years,” club coordinator Connor Crossley said.
The club is seeded No. 3 in the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference Championship playoffs, facing off against No. 2 Western Washington on the road in Bellingham, Washington April 4.
Last season, Oregon rugby took the league by storm, capping off several years spent working to rebuild the program with a focus on success and professionalism. This year, the team has again competed at a high level, finishing with a 5-2 record through the regular season.
“The games have been a lot closer than we expected,” club co-captain Travis Cutler said. “But all that matters at the end of the day is winning games, so I still consider this season a huge success.”
Everything will culminate with the semifinal playoff match against Western, a team that the Ducks lost to by just three points during their home opener.
The Oregon forwards will be asked to have a strong game if the Ducks want to be able to defeat an evenly matched team. Oregon will look to open the game up and try to get the ball moving around the bigger Western backline.
Over the past couple of years, Western has been one of the premier teams in the NCRC, a group Oregon would like to join. The Vikings are one of the top teams in the conference when it comes to technical play and set pieces. They have a great coaching staff as well.
“They are efficient and are very strong at capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes,” Crossley said.
Though they lost the first meeting, Oregon is coming into the match confident in what they can do as a team.
“The seniors are really fired up,” club co-captain Anton Matschek said. “I see it as setting an example for the younger guys, it’s a way to show them what we can accomplish as a group when we train hard.”
The team has been hard at work training the first week of school, hoping to get players back into shape physically and mentally after being away from the pitch for two weeks due to finals and Spring Break.
If the Ducks are able to defeat the Vikings the next match will be against the winner of the Washington versus Washington State game, which would potentially be in Eugene pending seeding. The winner of that second game would win the league championship.
A NCRC Championship also brings with it an automatic bid to compete at Nationals. While a repeat trip to nationals would be a huge accomplishment for the club, right now all the attention is on this weekend.
“Our focus is on Western right now,” Matschek said. “Every single game for us is a one-time elimination.”
Any wins from this point on would be special for a group of seniors who have done so much to transform their team.
“I would love it if we could make a postseason run — what a way to go out,” Cutler said. “Just a final cap to show how this team has improved over the years.”
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur
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