November 4, 2003

Rugby Takes Regionals by Storm

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Both the men’s and women’s rugby teams tried to extend their seasons this weekend in the Northeastern Regional Tournament. The men were victorious over UMass, allowing them to advance to the next level of the tournament, while the women fell to Dartmouth, ending their season.

On Saturday afternoon, the Cornell men’s rugby team added another win to its impressive 9-0 season with a 46-17 win over UMass in the first round of the Northeastern Regional Tournament. Saturday’s victory puts Cornell one win away from the Sweet-16.

“This tournament is a prelude to the national tournament which takes place next semester,” said Alexander Cwirko-Godycki, captain of the men’s team.

Luke Schafer was named the Most Valuable Player of the New York State Rugby Conference playoffs.

“He leads the team in scoring and scored two trys against UMass as well as making all of his conversion kicks and penalty kicks,” Cwirko-Godycki said.

This win was just a continuation of the success that the Red has enjoyed all season long. Its undefeated season includes shutouts against RPI, Syracuse, Canisius College and SUNY Brockport.

“Last weekend, we beat the University of Buffalo to secure the New York State Rugby Conference Championship.”

This was Cornell’s first league title since 1998.

Women’s head coach and men’s assistant coach Christopher Morris believes that there are several factors that have contributed to the men’s success.

“This team’s talent has never gone away. It’s not that they are so much better this year than they have been in the past — it’s just that they are so focused. Cornell has always been a top level program. The big difference has been the work of Ruairidh Sawers, the team’s new head coach,” Morris said.

The team advanced to play the winner of the Norwich-Northeastern game this coming weekend for the next round of the tournament.

Women’s Team

The women’s team also played Saturday, losing a difficult match against Dartmouth, 17-27.

“It was a great match, despite the outcome,” director of rugby operations Bruce Chruch said.

Cornell’s Kate Blackledge scored early in the first half on a converted try, and Lindsey Ehinger added to the team’s score with a conversion kick to give the Red an 8-0 lead.

Dartmouth replied by scoring three trys to take an advantage heading into the half.

In the second half, Ehinger scored a penalty kick, cutting into the Green lead. However, Dartmouth came back to score two more uncoverted trys before Cornell winger Liz Connelly was able to bring Cornell back to within 10 points with a try that was converted by Ehinger.

“Cornell’s comeback ran out of time,” Morris said. “It’s a hard way to end the season, but to call it a disappointment would cheapen the accomplishments of these athletes. They started out with a preseason tournament against some of the top ranked teams in the country and handled them quite well. What followed was an impressive show of dominance throughout New York state rugby throughout the regular season.”

“The way that rugby is, especially at the collegiate level, any mistake on your side of the field can so quickly and easily be turned into points for the other team,” Morris said.

The performance of the team throughout the season was a pleasant surprise for Morris.

“We graduated 12 seniors last year, including the bulk of our starters. There were also some offseason injuries to players who were expected to step up into those positions. Under ordinary circumstances, you would have called this a rebuilding year. We didn’t rebuild, we reloaded.”

This was the women’s rugby team’s eighth consecutive undefeated season as well as its eighth consecutive New York State championship season. In those eight seasons, three players have been sent to the U.S. National Team.

Archived article by Shannon Heary