Seven players from the men’s rugby club were selected to compete with the Illinois Select Side All-Star team to finish a victorious season for the club.
Casey Dodson, David Vargas, Daniel Unes, Sam Pellegrino, Brian Cullen, Derek Mohler and Carson Pearce traveled to Northern Illinois University Friday and Saturday to play the All-Star teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin. The team fell to Minnesota before it defeated Wisconsin en route to a third place finish amongst the teams from the Midwest.
The All-Star selections added another bright spot to an already shining year for the team, Dan Lowery, club president, said.
The club has seasons during the fall and spring. The fall season started with a first-place finish at the Ruggapalooza tournament September 3, held by the women’s rugby club at SIU. Following that, the team entered its union schedule, which is similar to conference play, said Lowery, a senior from Burr Ridge studying civil engineering.
“After our regular season was done, we went to the Midwest Playoffs and took third in that,” Lowery said. “That wrapped up our fall season, and then in February we went out to Las Vegas for USA 7s National Tournament. We placed fourth in the Shield Cup, and we got a lot of good experience there.”
A 39-5 defeat of Ole Miss and a first place finish in the annual All-Fools tournament, hosted by the team March 31, concluded the year. It was the second year in a row the club had won All-Fools.
Pearce, a freshman from Plainsfield studying aviation technologies, said the team performed well all year because of its ability to focus when it mattered most.
“When we need to get down to business, it’s what we do,” he said. “We do what we need to do when the time comes.”
Lowery said many of the team members formerly played high school football before switching to rugby. This can be an advantage to the players because of the similarities between the two games.
“Football was based off of rugby,” he said. “You use a similar skill set, but there are also differences. Tackling is the same and there is kicking in both, but passing is different.”
In rugby, forward passes are illegal, whereas the forward pass is a pinnacle element of football.
Marco Orozco, a freshman from Plainsfield studying business administration, said he only started playing for the SIU club rugby team this semester, but he was immediately drawn to the group because of the team’s welcoming character.
“I’m new to the game; I’m a rookie,” he said. “I decided to play rugby because my older brother played at ISU. He told me that it was a great time and that I should try out and ever since I’ve been loving it. When I came for the first time, everyone was really friendly and it’s just a great atmosphere.”
Lowery said the team always welcomes new players.
“Anyone can make a good rugby player,” he said. “If a person is good enough to run, catch, pass and kick, they’re golden.”
Orozco said anyone that enjoys a competitive atmosphere will enjoy the sport, but the true feel of the team can only be experienced by trying it out for yourself.
“You’ll notice it right when you get on the field,” he said. “They’ll welcome you with open arms, like they’ve known you for awhile. If you really want to see for yourself, you’ve got to come out. You’ll just fall in love right away.”
The team’s last event of the season is during Alumni Weekend on May 5, where the current team will scrimmage its graduated former members.