Men’s rugby has a historic season
Matt Gad – Sports Writer
Southern’s men’s rugby team had a strong fall season this time around, capped off by the opportunity to compete for a national championship, in North Carolina.
“We had a historic season (this past fall),” co-captain Noah Fleischer-Cerino said. “We won the Rugby Northeast Conference, made it to the Sweet 16 and were ranked nationally for the first time since I’ve been at Southern.”
The Black Attack, as they are known since rugby is not an official NCAA Division II sport at Southern, received votes to be ranked 17th this year in a national poll, according to Fleischer-Cerino.
“You could see from the beginning of the season that we were serious about winning our league. Everyone was at practice and lifting on their own time. We’d even get together and just play touch rugby whenever we had the chance,” co-captain Mike Sullivan said.
Men’s rugby is a club sport at Southern, competing in both the fall and spring semesters, but Southern is part of Rugby Northeast, as stated above. The Black Attack are in the conference with Bentley University, Bryant, Franklin Pierce, Holy Cross, Merrimack, Providence College, Roger Williams, Saint Anselm, Saint Michael’s, Stonehill and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Rugby Northeast was formed in February 2011 as part of the USA Rugby umbrella. Again, the team is a club sport here at Southern, but according to rugbynortheast.org, it is recognized by the NCAA.
“The atmosphere is very welcoming,” Zack Hoynoski, a first-year player, said. “With 15 starting positions in the fall, depth is very important so we always encourage anyone interested to join our team.”
Spring practice starts Feb. 28 and “everyone is welcome to come out and give it a shot,” Sullivan said.
The team is coached by John Marullo, with Andrew Marullo as an assistant coach. Additional to the roles Sullivan and Fleischer-Cerino play as captains, Eric Kemmling serves as president and Beckett McEwen as match secretary.
“We had a few new guys join the team this year that really helped cement our lineup and give us some depth,” Fleischer-Cerino said. “But we’re always looking for more people to come out and give rugby a try.”
Team chemistry is a stronghold among the rugby team, as Sullivan referred to them as being “a family, not a team.”
“We all look out for each other and push each other to do better on and off the field,” said Sullivan. “In general we’d walk through Hell’s Gates for one another.”
“We play a lot of situational rugby,” Hoynoski said. “Off the field, our captains organize and encourage players to participate in bonding events.”
Southern will be returning everyone from the fall session this spring, seeking to make another national championship run, Hoynoski said. “We are hoping to repeat history.”
Typically, teams play with a full 15-man squad in the fall but shift to a starting seven, known as “Rugby Sevens,” in the springtime. The collegiate Rugby Sevens championship is routinely held at PPL Park in Philadelphia each June. The venue is traditionally used for Philadelphia Union home Major League Soccer games.
Photo Credit: Olivia Mecca