Men’s Rugby is stronger than ever

Published by Marissa Mastrangelo, Date: February 8, 2022
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The Slippery Rock Men’s Rugby Club (Rock Rugby) is preparing for a much anticipated spring 2022 season.

The Men’s Rock Rugby team is a club sport for Slippery Rock University (SRU). They are competing against other colleges where rugby is one of their division sports.

Rock Rugby has been rebuilding their team in every aspect since COVID-19 began. Due to the pandemic, the team had begun to fall apart and were forced to go rogue. The players that were freshmen and sophomores at the time looked elsewhere to continue playing.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride for the Rock Rugby team. Prior to COVID-19, they struggled to execute wins. Nonetheless, Rock Rugby began developing massive changes because of their coaching staff.

Another reason for their transformation is due to how tightly knit the club is. They are more of a family than a team. A tradition Rock Rugby upholds is their unique nicknames they have for each other, rather than using their first name.

Matt Heasley and Clinton McConnell, nicknamed “Hightower,” are Rock Rugby’s volunteer coaches. They are also formerly known as the Slippery Rock Old Boys (SLOBS), who are alumni that played rugby for SRU.

The SLOBS of Rock Rugby play a huge role in mentoring, supporting and even providing networking for the team. The positive support the team receives from the SLOBS runs deep for Rock Rugby. They are there for the team with whatever they need.

Despite a previous streak of losses, by the end of the fall 2021 season, Rock Rugby was one of the best rugby teams in their league.

Rock Rugby is affiliated with National Collegiate Rugby within the 15s player division. After winning against John Carroll University (26-14), Slippery Rock was qualified for the Allegheny Rugby Union Small College Men playoffs.

After finishing their league play 5-2, they continued on in the National Challenge Cup playoffs. Rock Rugby competed against Grove City College and the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point to became a Great Lakes Regional Qualifier.

After winning in the Great Lakes Regionals, SRU qualified and headed to the Midwest Championships in St. Louis. Nationally, this placed Rock Rugby in the Sweet 16.

While in Missouri, Rock Rugby won their semi-final match in the Midwest Championship against Case Western University. However their streak came to end after a tough loss against Wayne State College. This loss eliminated them from the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) Final Four in Houston.

Despite not competing in the NCR playoffs, Rock Rugby ended on a high note for the fall 2021 season.

Three players from the team were also selected to play in the 2021 Allegheny Rugby Union Small College All-Conference Team: senior Anthony Houston, junior Wayne (Cheese) Sanders and freshman Aiden O’Shea.

The Rock Rugby Team President, Anthony Houston, gave further insight into how far the team has come.

“When I was a freshman back in 2018, we didn’t win a single game, our coaches played a huge part in restructuring the practices and team,” Houston said. “We are on the brink of something special, we did a complete 180 and have very big things coming.”

In the spring, Rock Rugby will play sevens instead of 15s, which means there will be less players on the field and bench, as well as shorter halves. However, it does not mean the games are any less competitive, they are just played at a considerably faster pace.

With spring right around the corner, Rock Rugby is preparing for another noteworthy season.

Overall, their main goals are to grow more as a team, in addition to helping grow the sport of rugby in its entirety. The Rock Rugby team also has their eyes set on possibly traveling to New Orleans.

“We are honestly just really excited to be able to play again,” Houston said. “The team is always taking new players, no experience is needed to join.”

The team’s spring schedule has not been finalized just yet, but they plan to have 7’s games on Saturday’s throughout the months of March and April.

Students are encouraged to reach out about joining Rock Rugby. If students have any other questions about the team, be sure to contact Coach Matt Heasley through his email; matt.heasley@sru.edu.

You can also click here to access their main website and all of their social medias to stay up to date. 

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Marissa is a senior communication major with a concentration in digital media and TV field production and a minor in film and media studies. This is her first semester as the assistant copy/web editor. Marissa is also WSRU-FM’s PR director and a producer for SRU’s public affairs office. In her free time, you could catch her listening to entire albums before individual songs, watering her plants, or playing chess and crosswords.

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