The Kutztown University 7s team made a big splash Saturday, winning the Wilmington 7s Mid-Atlantic Qualifier bracket, and securing a place in the MARFU territorial club 7s championships.
The KU team is an all-student team that is being coached by Kutztown alumni Jeff Reiss and Paul Presinzano. The team checked carefully with USA Rugby to ensure they were allowed to compete in the club competition.
“We’re excited about the team,” said Presinzano. “MARFU had no problem with us competing, Our whole agenda is, this is going to be an Olympic sport. We want to be involved and have our players compete as much as possible. Kutztown wasn’t invited to the [USA 7s] CRC; that’s fine, we understand. But we still want to get as many athletes experience as we can to give[USA 7s coach] Al Caravelli a bigger pool of players.”
KU went 1-1 in Pool Play, defeating the NOVA 35-10 and losing to Wilmington 22-12. That put them in the 4th seed position in the quarterfinals, where they met the Pittsburgh Harlequins.
Curiously, the Harlequins had on their roster a KU student. Perhaps they needed more as the Bears won 17-7 to make the semis.
In the semis, Kutztown faced Schuylkill River, champions last week at Lehigh Valley and big winners in their three previous matches. But Kutztown prevailed 28-17 to make the final.
That set up a final against the Maryland Exiles. Both teams were beat up by this point, and in a tense match KU led 7-5 at halftime. Kutztown scored early in the second half and then a few minutes later to lead 19-5 late. The Exiles put in a try and rushed to kick off again, but Kutztown retained the ball and kicked to touch to end the game, 19-10.
“The guys played good, unselfish, team rugby,” said Presinzano. “Tim Acker was a big scorer for us in the 15s season, but he spent the day setting up tries.”
Matt Hartwell, a new Kutztown student who has transferred from Shippensburg, and Gareth Lourens led the team in tries, while Bruce Dolan toughed it out through a groin i9njury and scored the final try in the championship game.
The tournament victory puts Kutztown in the MARFU finals, along with Schuylkill River. Schuylkill still leads the points standings while the Exiles earned their first points of the season.