Opening the season with a round robin scrimmage at Yale, Southern’s rugby team begins their first year ever at the Division I level.
“We’re stepping up and taking a shot at a higher level,” said Head coach Joe Verderame. “My expectations are to be competitive and to maybe make the playoffs this year.”
Verderame said due to the team’s perfect 10-0 season last year, they were requested to move up, the team voted and the decision was ultimately made to take on the challenge.
“Next week we’re playing Army, which is one of the best teams in the whole country,” said Verderame.
The team was able to give a lot of younger players work as the team played four separate games throughout the day.
Also at the scrimmage were Yale and Coast Guard whom Southern played twice each, one “A” game and one “B” game.
“I think there was a little bit too much chatter, but I think for the first time we were working out the kinks,” said captain Dennis Bien. “I think the next thing is the older guys need to step up, and the younger guys need to know their roles on the team.”
Fellow captain Pat O’Connor said he thought the team played well, but the overall team fitness was not where it is going to have to be over the course of the season.
“Everyone worked together pretty good,” said O’Connor, “but you know, we’re playing Army next week and that’s really gonna test our fitness. We’re gonna be running a lot next week in practice.”
Due to off-field issues, O’Connor and Bien were not able to play in the team’s first game. They both said it caused issues which are going to need to be corrected going forward.
“There’s way too many people on the field talking instead of playing,” said Bien. “We have way too many coaches and not enough players.”
Both players said part of the reason for the “chatter,” was the absence of the teams two captains, but at the same time it was a good opportunity for younger players to step up.
O’Connor said two players who helped hold everything down in the absence of the captains were veterans Nick Amaro and Noah Morgan.
“We graduated a lot of guys last year,” said O’Connor, “so definitely people are stepping up. But like Dennis said, we really need to calm down, sit back and play simple rugby, because when we play simple
rugby, like we played it in the second half, we were running the Coast Guard up and down the field.”
With consistent rugby action going on for four hours, there was no official scoring, but the captains said they tied Coast Guard and lost to Yale.
“This is our first time we got invited by Yale down here,” said Verderame now in his fourth year with the team.
Southern plays their home games on the rugby field next to the baseball field behind Seabury Hall.
Southern’s first home game will be Sept. 19 against Fordham University.
With a large number of new players, Verderame said he is hoping for people to step up and have an impact on the team, but he still encourages more players to come out and work with the group.
“I encourage all the people from school to come down and support the team,” said Verderame.
“Because we’ve been doing really well the last two-three years, and we’ve been getting great support, don’t get me wrong. Just keep it coming, we love it.”