The club rugby team won the Keystone Rugby Conference 7’s Series on Saturday at West Chester University after finishing the three-part tournament series of tournaments with the most points in the Keystone Conference.
The club lost to West Virginia University 22-0 in the final, but had enough points from the two previous legs of the tournament to stay ahead of the rest of the field.
The Owls, who are members of the Division I-AA Keystone Rugby Conference, won the second leg on April 2 with victories over Villanova, The University of Pittsburgh and St. Joseph’s University.
“I think we’re even better than last year,” senior club president and prop Daniel Ponti said. “We’re just trying to make Temple history by winning our first CRC pool game and hopefully make a name for ourselves.”
The rugby team’s schedule is split into two seasons, with 15’s rugby played in the fall and 7’s rugby played in the spring. For 15’s, there are 15 players on the field at once for an 80-minute game while in 7’s, there are seven players in 14-minute matches.
During the fall, the Owls have a set schedule, if they win the Keystone Conference—which includes nine teams from all the Mid-Atlantic region, including the University of Pittsburgh, Villanova, St. Joe’s, Rutgers University and James Madison University—the team moves on to the national tournament.
In the spring the team chooses to go to tournaments and play multiple games to save travel time.
“Instead of going all the way out to a university and playing for 14 minutes, we play in tournaments,” senior winger Peter Mulville said. “So we’ll go out to a tournament with anywhere from eight to 20 teams, and we’ll play a series of games.”
Mulville said the squad isn’t as big as some of the competition it faces in terms of size, so it has to figure out alternative ways to succeed.
“One of our strong points is definitely our speed,” Mulville said. “We have some pretty fast guys on the team … We’re definitely not the biggest team, but we’re really aggressive. We have a lot of experience, and a lot of our guys have been playing 7’s at Temple for the past three or four years.”
On May 21, the squad will compete at the Subaru 7’s in Wilmington, Delaware, where they have lost to Kutztown University the past two seasons.
“With us, it always seems to come down to mental preparation,” Ponti said. “We will either come out really intense and crush teams or we’ll be very lackadaisical and not play well at all.. … So we really try to keep a positive theme going. If one of our teammates makes a mistake, it’s easy to say, ‘You should’ve caught that ball,’ but something I think we have personified even more this season is if we make a mistake we go on to the next play.”
The club’s greatest challenge will come in early June when it competes against the 23 other teams in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship.
Twenty of the schools are invited to participate, while the other four earn spots via qualifiers, including the Las Vegas Invitational, the Big Ten Conference championship, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and the Southeastern Conference championship.
Last year, the Owls—who have been invited to compete in the CRCs for six consecutive years—went 0-3 in the CRCs, losing to the Naval Academy, Kutztown and the Air Force Academy, but they were awarded the Shield for the second year in a row.
“We’re really moving on to the national tournament, the CRCs,” senior prop Jeremy Engel said. “We’ve won the Shield two years in a row now, but we’re not satisfied with that. We want to keep moving up and put it out there that we are the real deal.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at email@example.com.