The University of Dallas Rugby team’s previous games have been mere preparation for this weekend’s competition. Now, as the Cup season of the Lone Star Conference kicks into gear this Saturday, the team is ready to embark upon what could be one of the most successful rugby seasons in recent UD history.
“We were real close last year … just barely edged out,” senior captain Charlie Turner said.
But it’s quite clear that the team wants to accomplish much more than simply ‘being close’ to champions this year.
“Oh, we’re definitely making the playoffs,” senior president Luke Goveas said.
Their enthusiastic confidence, however, should not be confused with cockiness. The Hoggies have many reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season, including significant improvements in the team’s depth, talent and overall training.
As was mentioned earlier this year, the team was even able to participate in a local developmental league, presenting a valuable opportunity for young rugby players to gain playing time and experience on the field against Dallas competition while the veterans practiced and furthered their skill sets.
“The [team’s] increased depth and talent go together,” Turner said. “And actually we got a good number of freshmen who had already played rugby before, so that helps a lot.”
As the younger players tested their abilities on the field in games, many of their veteran teammates worked diligently during practice to fine-tune their skills in preparation for the Cup season.
For longtime members of the team, this system presented an important opportunity to expand beyond the basic fundamentals of rugby, and instead focus on areas of expertise that could help them to earn more victories for UD. Conditioning, formations and kicking practice were of particular importance as the team prepared for the regular competition season.
“In the past years we’ve done a lot more working with the basics,” Turner said. “This year we’re doing a lot more conditioning, more practicing the skill sets.”
Turner, who plays the back position, said that the backs and forwards are playing together exceptionally well this year, cooperating in order to open up the field for morescoring opportunities.
“This year, the backs are better than they’ve been since I’ve been [on the team],” Turner said. “More speed, better hitters — and that has … allowed us to kick better.”
But it is not just these skills which might propel the Hoggies into the playoffs for the first time in a long while — there has also been a restructuring of the playoff system in the Lone Star Conference. This new system, which attempts to fix an outdated system that many fans and players believed was unfair to the more competitive North division, grants four total slots to the four best teams in both divisions of the conference.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the team’s collective spirit could not possibly be any more enthusiastic. The Rugby team has always been known for the brotherly bonds which unite the players, and this year’s group is no exception. When asked about where the team stood in terms of camaraderie, Turner remarked that the interrogation was “kind of a personal question.”
In keeping with their tradition, the University of Dallas rugby players are closer to achieving their goals than ever before, and they are ready to succeed in the upcoming season.