Coach Sciotto said despite his team losing a lot of experienced players, this team absolutely has a chance to win not only the division, but the national championship.
The men’s rugby team is not only looking to repeat as division champions this season, they are looking to win the national championship.
Last season the Owls won the Division I Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and posted a 15-3 overall record. The club made it to postseason play and advanced to the sweet 16 in the national tournament, falling to Bowling Green.
The Owls have a tough challenge ahead of them this year as they have lost a lot of experienced players. When asked who the key returning players were, Coach John Sciotto could only name his two captains, Mark Transue and James O’ Brien. Sciotto also stated that the Owls have no star newcomers and that his captains will play a vital role in helping the new faces to learn and adjust to college level competition.
Sciotto, who played rugby for the Penn State Nittany Lions in the late 1990s, has focused on welcoming everyone and making them feel like they are apart of a team.
O’ Brien said despite the departure of several veterans, he expects the club will have the ability to make a strong showing this year.
“We have a lot of inexperienced players this year,” O’ Brien said. “We lost a lot of guys last year. We just have to get them together and tell them how to play.”
A lot of teaching is being done at practice, as O’ Brien and Transue are both active in instructing the new players how things are done. Both feel that one of the most important things that they can do is make sure that everyone on the team feels like they are apart of something greater.
“In the first two weeks we have had an astronomical amount of people show up,” Transue said. “It is our job to just to keep them out and keep them interested.”
The Owls made the transition from Division II to Division I a couple of years ago, but O’ Brien said that the transition has been relatively smooth, as most of the teams that the Owls competed against in Division II have also made the transition to Division I.
This season, the Owls look forward to playing cross-town rivals St. Joseph’s and perennial powerhouse Penn State in Philadelphia.
Brian Kim can be reached at email@example.com.