Rugby to end season at cross-town rival Carnegie Mellon

Written By Josh Croup

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Despite only posting a 2-5 record, last year’s Point Park Rugby season was still the most successful one in their brief four-year history.

With a stockpile of new players mixed with a group of experienced veterans, the club hopes to build on their successes last season.

Before last year, the club had never won multiple games in a single. Last year saw victories over Allegheny College in the final week of the season and cross-town rival Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in week three, their first victory against their rival. Point Park also defeated CMU in their final spring semester friendly match.

Team co-captain, junior Brady Winner, said the team is using the CMU victories to motivate the team this year.

“Ending the year against CMU is always a great thing, especially when you beat them,” Winner said. “That’s still fresh in our mind. We’re still thriving off that energy from the win. We’re going to come out fast; we’re going to come out strong this year.”

The club is scheduled to play CMU in the final week of the season.

CMU, along with Point Park, missed the playoffs last year after finishing in the bottom half of the Three Rivers Rugby Conference Gold Division (3RRC). The top four teams out of eight advance to the post season.

This year, the goal is not just to finish in the top half of the division.

“We don’t expect to lose,” Winner said. “We need that attitude going into every game because if we don’t, what’s the point?”

Winner and senior Jakob Como are both first year captains of the club. They want to set the bar high for the club in order to have a successful season.

“I expect us to go to the playoffs,” Como said. “I think that’s something to expect from us. We have a lot of returning guys and a lot of guys who have experience.”

Along with the experienced veterans, the club is also welcoming in a large recruiting class. Club president, junior Jerimiah Elsass, said the additional numbers will help them match up better against other teams who have had more players than Point Park in previous years.

“Other teams have almost another entire line of guys and are able to bring in fresh legs,” Elsass said. “That helped them power over us in the back half of games. That’s not going to happen anymore. If everybody has as much emotion and potential as they’re showing, I have no doubt that we can show [other teams] a thing or two.”

The team enters this year without key players who got the club to where it is today, including Troy and Travis Johnston. Both were captains and club leaders.

The Johnston twins were two of seven seniors that graduated last year.

Josh Coltura was one of the seven seniors. He returns this year as a coaching assistant and said he is looking for guys to step into leadership roles including the team’s new captains.

“We lost Troy, we lost Travis and we lost a lot of good guys,” Coltura said. “We really just need true leaders. I need them to step in. I need them to be comfortable in their own skin and take the team to the potential that it has.”

Alden Roth is entering his senior season with the club and is going to be another player expected to lead. He said the team will miss the graduated seniors including the Johnston twins, but now it’s the current senior class’s responsibility to lead the team.

“You could always count on either one of them to fill a gap, to catch the ball, to make a pass,” Roth said. “I need to step up, the other seniors need to step up and we have to make sure the guys below us step up as well and play to the best of their ability.”

Richie Carver is also entering his senior season with the club. He said that the addition of coaching assistants and the strong numbers the club has early in the season makes him excited for the upcoming year.

“[The club] definitely feels a lot more organized, especially with all of the seniors leaving,” Carver said. “I think we’ve done a good job transitioning. There’s a lot of new guys that have stepped up already. A lot of the new guys have really been working hard. It definitely shows.”

Point Park opens the season against the conference’s top teams. Their first four opponents all finished in the top-half of the 3RRC last season and advanced to the playoffs.

The club’s first match is Sept. 11 against Fairmont University. Then the club faces Franciscan University, Geneva College and 2014 3RRC champion Robert Morris University. Franciscan and Robert Morris both finished last fall ranked in the top ten of the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). Geneva also finished with a No. 25 ranking.

Winner said playing tough opponents to open the season is a good thing for the rookies on the team. He said it is a chance to get as much experience against tough opponents to make the team better in the long run. Roth added that, because of the tough first half schedule, there is little room for error.

“Everybody’s going to have to push themselves more. Slacking off won’t be okay,” Roth said. “You have to get in the gym and have top physical fitness or you won’t play. That’s that. I think that will help us field a very strong team.

Fan vans are scheduled to be available for Point Park’s season opener against Fairmont State at 6:30. Elsass said the club hopes to have the same backing of the fans who cheered on the team last season.

“To start off with that much support, it would be a lot of help,” Elsass said. “I think it will also help keep people around. Some magic happens when you’re carrying the ball and people are yelling your name. It’s just magic.”