Summer may be coming to a close, but that means that collegiate rugby is just beginning for this year. The Fall 2013 Ivy League Rugby season should be an exciting one, with new players and coaches coming in, and experienced players leaving due to graduation.
While everyone has questions about the upcoming season, there's one overriding concern - can anyone catch Dartmouth?
Dartmouth is the powerhouse of the Ivy League men's competition. They consistently finish top of the league, and also have had great success on the national stage, wining the 2011 and 2012 CRC 7s championships, and making the DI collegiate semifinals two years running, as well.
Dartmouth looks to be the top team in the North Division again, led by All American Madison Hughes, who many feel will get a full Eagle 15s or 7s cap sooner rather than later.
But in the more competitive South Division, everyone looks forward to playing the best.
One of those teams is from the University of Pennsylvania, who are eager to finally get a chance to take down Dartmouth.
Captain Billy Barron says the team is largely the same group as last year, as they are only losing two key players this fall.
“Having essentially the same group as we did last year is really helpful,” said Barron. “We’re in pretty good shape.”
The big question is, what recruits will they get from the freshman class? Barron said that, judging from the past, there is no way to predict what kinds of players will join the team.
“One year we’ll get a bunch of international kids who can really play. Other years we get mostly American kids who we have to teach the game to more. It can vary.” Barron hopes that the new players will be able to adapt to UPenn’s system. “We play an open game,” he said. “A lot of our success has come from the backs, and a lot of our tries come from the backs. We like to hit up the middle and then use the space out wide. Our forwards have gotten a lot better over the past two years, but there is still quite a ways to go. We hope to see even more improvement out of them this fall.”
Players looking to have a strong year for Penn include sophomore Scott Rozen-Levy and Junior Daleroy Sibanda. Barron is hoping that his team will get a chance to play Dartmouth in the playoffs this fall. They don’t meet in the regular season as they are in different divisions, but he believes that if they didn’t have an early loss to Brown in the playoffs that they could have given Dartmouth a decent game. UPenn’s experienced team should be a contender this fall, and Billy Barron hopes that they can challenge for an Ivy League title.
Another team looking to build on a strong year is Brown University. Head Coach David LaFlamme’s team is losing six players to graduation, but he said that his team is prepared “to fill some holes. We did things in the spring to prepare for that and we should be in okay shape. We just need to rework the back line.”
One of the strong points of Brown is how well balanced the team is between backs and forwards and they “function within structure. This year we will try to implement a couple changes to the structure. It may take a couple games to get up and running and I don’t want to say too much about it, but when guys stick to the plan we do well.”
LaFlamme added that Brown is a team without superstars, but is instead a group of solid players who do well in the system. One player he looks to for leadership is his captain, Matt Leonard.
“He has always been a solid player, and we expect him to once again lead by example. We’re hoping to have other guys that have performed well in the past step up this year as well,” said LaFlamme.
Brown plays in the North Division of the Ivy League, meaning that twice a year they match up against Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth.
“Dartmouth is the top dog that everyone wants to strive for and do well against,” remarked LaFlamme. “We’ve done okay against them, and we’ve gotten the better of both Yale and Harvard. Yale and Harvard had young sides last year, and I expect them to improve and I know their coaches will have them pointed in the right direction. They will certainly mature and put some stuff in place.”
LaFlamme is aware of the competition his Brown side will be facing this fall, but he is more concerned about his own side. With the graduating players, strategy changes, and changes to the back line, Brown will have a lot of work to do, but Coach LaFlamme is confident that his team will be able to challenge for the Ivy League title this year.