On a chilly day in Fairfield Connecticut, the Vassar College Brewers defeated Seton Hall University and Marist College to punch their first ever ticket to the Division two Men’s National Championship.
In the first match of the day, Marist defeated the number one overall seed, and tournament host, Fairfield University, 26-19.
The second semifinal saw Vassar College defeat the Seton Hall Pirates 13-12 on a last second try. Vassar jumped out to an early 3-0 lead when junior flyhalf, Nich Graham, slotted a penalty. Seton Hall responded immediately with a converted try, giving the Pirates a 7-3 lead. Right before the break, Vassar added an unconverted try of their own taking an 8-7 lead into the half. Seton Hall recaptured the lead with an additional try making the contest 12-7 in favor of the Pirates. Vassar spent the final ten minutes of the match monopolizing possession inside the Seton Hall 22. With less than a minute to play the Vassar captains teamed up to score the game winning try as time expired. Scrumhalf, Karl Foley, took a quick tap penalty and passed to his fellow captain number 8, Andrew Jdaynani who smashed his way over to win the match.
In the final, cross-town Poughkeepsie rivals squared off in a sloppy error filled game. The first half ended 6-0 in favor of Vassar, with two penalties from Graham being the difference. Marist started the second half strong, scoring and unconverted try. The Brewers weathered the storm and began dominating the latter stages of the match. The Brewers were strong in the breakdown, forcing the Marist to consistently commit infringements at rucks. With five minutes to play Marist had a player cautioned for repeated offside and were forced to play the remaining minutes with 14 men. The Brewers put the nail in the coffin when Jdaynani sent winger Jesse Myhill in for a try. The final whistle blew with a 11-6 victory for Vassar.
Jdaydani, Foley, and fellow senior inside center Jerry Dieudonne have paced this team all season. Jdaydani and Dieudonne led the team in tries. Both have been explosive on offense and consistent on defense. The senior leadership has been critical to the success of the team all season.
Assistant Coach and former Welsh National Team player, Mark Griffiths, stated that “their familiarity with game came through when we needed it. They have done a great job with game management and keeping team morale strong.”
After early season losses the Fairfield and Seton Hall, the team is peaking at the right time.
Jdaynani mentioned that “we had been stressing keeping our defensive shape at practice. Our success over the recent weeks has showed us that what we had been practicing has been working. Our confidence has been growing and we knew coming into the weekend that we were the best team in this conference.”
Despite the victories, Karl Foley believes that Vassar needs to continue improving in order to compete on the national stage.
“We need to continue to keep our composure mentally, and maintain our strong dedication and teamwork. We have to keep working at the basics and strive for perfection.”
Vassar will be traveling to Harrisonburg, Virginia to face James Madison University on November 23.