April 25, 2014
Back-to-back national championship berths for SUThe men's rugby club has qualified for the National Small College Rugby Organization 7s Nationals for the second year in a row.
The team traveled to Grove City on April 5 and competed in a qualifying match tournament.
During pool play, the Crusaders played Robert Morris University and Geneva College. The Crusaders were able to easily defeat Robert Morris, 33-7. They then fought back and forth with Geneva, losing on a last minute try 31-26.
Due to a point differential, Susquehanna was able to continue on to the semifinals, where they again faced up against Geneva. In this game, Susquehanna was able to turn things around and win 22-7.
Head coach Jon Niles was not able to make it to the tournament because of a 15s home rugby game versus Bucknell. He said, "They rebounded pretty well against Geneva in the second match. Their student leadership was impressive for being able to do."
The Crusaders then competed against PSU-Berks. The men were able to maintain a steady lead, and ultimately won the game 38-17, sealing their spot in the National Small College Championships, with junior Spencer Zuech, sophomore Joe Borza and junior Alex Holderbaum scoring tries. Zuech ultimately scored nine tries during the tournament.
Holderbaum said: "Joe Borza kind of sealed the deal. We dominated them defensively. It got to the point where they were scared to get hit. They didn't want to go into tackles."
He continued: "Joe Borza took one of their best players and made this kid almost squeal. He was all over him the whole game. Zach Bascio was taking out their big guys, and everyone was making their tackles. That's what it really came down too."
Sophomore Joe Borza was named the MVP of the qualifying tournament. Borza said he thought he was given the title because of his performance in the championship game. He said: "I played really well in that championship game. I had a quick tap that I scored off of. I intercepted a ball and scored off of that. And I beat up their scrumhalf. "
In last year's NSCRO 7s Nationals, the men were able to win one of their three pool games. They defeated Western New England College and lost to North Florida and Occidental College.
Holderbaum, who is one of the team co-captains, said he was still quite happy with the turnout of last year.
He said: "The two teams we lost to, wound up being the two teams in the finals...We still won one game in a national tournament and that is an accomplishment in itself."
Holderbaum credited Occidental and North Florida's winning performances to their physical fitness.
He said: "They were in unbelievable shape and that was something last year we lacked. We were kind of tired and that's where we lost it."
Since their experience last year, the men have now changed up their training methods. Holderbaum said: "We know that [conditioning] is the difference in 7s. It's all about speed and being in shape. If you're even a little bit out of shape you're done."
He continued: "Our training now is even less focused on tackling, defense and rugby basics but on straight conditioning. We'll practice for half an hour and then run for an hour. Sprint after sprint."
Once the semester ends, the team's training does not. Borza said that the team will be staying into senior week to have extra time to train. Also, they will have a two-day clinic where a USA 7's coach comes out and teaches the team some new techniques.
With the conditioning put into play and other training, the team hopes that they'll fare better in the tournament.
Niles said, "Our goal is to win two pool matches and play on Sunday." Holderbaum and other members of the team agreed. If they were to move onto the competition on Sunday, they would play in PPL Park Stadium in front of the entire crowd.
The NSCRO 7s Nationals will be held at PPL Park in Philadelphia from May 31 to June 1. Tickets can be purchased online at philadelphiaunion.com.
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