Rugby seeks championship title
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 16:02
Loyola rugby has gone from an almost non-existent team, to being a major contender for a national championship in only four years.
After beating Tulane University for the first time in four years on Saturday, Feb. 15, the team is ready to face playoffs that, depending on how well they do, could mean a chance to travel to Philadelphia to compete for a national title.
This win against Tulane was of particular importance, said head coach Sam Brock, considering their rival history. Three years ago, Loyola lost to Tulane by 100 points. Two years ago, they lost by 40. Last year, they were defeated by only 10 points, about the equivalent of two scores.
Alla El-Jaouhari is a management senior and captain of the rugby team. He has been playing since his freshmen year, and said the growth of the team has increased every year, in large part due to the fact that they have players from all over the country. He said their main focus, however, is getting that national title.
“We’re hoping to go to nationals this year. This is a year that we’ve devoted most of our time to go above and beyond so that’s our goal,” El-Jaouhari said.
It is equally agreed upon that much of their success over these past few years is in large part to Brock. Jeremy Le, biology pre-med senior, said Brock has been fundamental to their progression.
“Coach Sam has been integral to our program overall. He’s been with us since the beginning and he’s really pushing for us and helping us to recruit players,” Le said.
Danny Williams, an economics senior, agrees with Le, and said that the help of Brock as well as their other coach, Jerry Malina, is the reason they have become such a technically talented team.
The four seniors on the team have had a strong impact on some of the younger players on the field, such as Eamon Roche, a criminal justice freshmen, who said he always felt supported by his older teammates.
“We’ve got great seniors who have been here for four years, and I really had to compete for a starting spot on this team, but the guys took me under their wing and got me there,” Roche said.
He says that with the strength they have as a solid team, there is nothing standing in their way.
“We need to keep building, keep bringing in players, put them under our wings as the seniors have done with us. Our program can only go up from here,” Roche said.
Coach Brock has devoted his life to this team, and has made it his mission to turn this program around, starting with recruitment. Brock says that when he got to Loyola four years ago, recruitment meant trying to find athletic students, and teaching them the basics of rugby from the beginning.
Now, he is able to recruit players from all over the country. He has a handful of players from San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston. He has also started actively recruiting local talent, and said that he and his players are at different high school tournaments every weekend to meet some of the players.
In fact, out of his 24 players, 22 played high school rugby. Brock said this is key because they already know how to play the game and all that is left is perfecting their skill.
Brock says he is excited for what the rest of the season has in store, but mostly for his players.
“You know, I’m on the sideline, but they’re the ones out here getting bloody. I want to see those guys get that title, I really do,” Brock said.
The team has four weeks until playoffs. And while they are celebrating this neighboring victory, they will be back to the drills and laps immediately, all for the hope of that national title.
Sarah Szigeti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org