St. Joe's shakes off tournament history, advances to Collegiate Rugby Championsip Plate quarters


CHESTER, Pa. —- St. Joe’s history at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships is not a pretty one.

So after a 13th-place finish in 2014 and a 14th-place finish in 2015, head coach Daniel “Shags” Yarusso decided this would be the year things change.

And after day one of the championships, the Hawks are in position to wash off their label as disappointments and pencil in a new history.

Yarusso and the Hawks competed in a number of additional 7s tournaments to gear up for the championships at the end of the year. The team competed in Las Vegas, Bermuda, West Virginia, New York, California and Virginia, hoping to get more acquainted with the 7-on-7 format.

“We did play a ton of 7s tournaments this spring as we wanted to develop depth,” Yarusso said. “We certainly took our lumps during the spring 7s series but it allowed us to identify players for this event.”

Junior forward Jimmy Wolfer says the Hawks started the spring with three teams of 7s, competing in the different tournaments. In the end, the best players came together to form the team that would compete in the CRC (see Day 1 recap).

Although the results did not favor the Hawks in those tournaments, the experience did.

“With the level of play all the teams were coming with, we didn’t do too well,” Wolfer said. “I feel like it works out for us pretty well now.”

Not only did the team get some valuable depth during the tournaments, but Wolfer credits the team’s fitness and training during those tournaments for the team’s hot start on Saturday.

“I feel fitness is great for us, too,” Wolfer said after the team’s win over Army. “We work our butts off.”

It certainly showed on the field. After quickly falling behind to Army in the second game of pool play, the Hawks scored 25 unanswered points, cruising to an easy victory. As the game progressed, the Hawks fitness showed, as Army was not able to keep up with the Hawks’ speed.

But did the Hawks’ speed give them heavy legs in the final game — a 14-5 loss to Pool C champion Arizona?

Yarusso doesn’t think so. In fact, he believes his team controlled the pace during the match.

“I feel the guys played well as a team,” he said. “They controlled possession and pace during their matches. I also think they were well disciplined on defense.”

With two convincing wins and a hard-fought loss to Pool C winner Arizona, the Hawks missed out on the Cup quarterfinals by one point, losing the point differential tie-breaker, 22-21, courtesy of a Penn State garbage time try. The tiebreaker relegated the Hawks to the Plate division.

But that does not mean the tournament has been a failure. The top-seeded Hawks can still win the Plate, finishing ninth — which would be the best finish in school history.

“I would like to see them duplicate their performance from day one,” Yarusso said. “I think if we can be consistent with our play, we can have similar success.”

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