As the fall rugby season comes to a close, the men’s club rugby team trades the green grass of Yavits Field, now worn down and rugged from the digging of cleats, for the indoor track of the Athletics and Events Center. As outdoor practices move inside, what was once a team of almost 70 men’s club rugby players becomes a group of 15.
This transition and downsizing can only mean one thing for the Bombers. For the second year in a row, the team is preparing to compete as a rugby Sevens squad at the Las Vegas Invitational from Feb. 12–14. Played alongside the USA Sevens international rugby tournament, the Las Vegas Invitational is the largest amateur rugby tournament in North America, where teams from around the world get to square off on the rugby pitch.
The Blue and Gold will compete in the men’s college Sevens’ nonqualifying bracket, which is made up of club, varsity and national teams. Stiff competition awaits the Bombers, as they are set to face off against the University of Regina, the University of Texas and the Bermuda U21 national team. Despite being a less-established team compared to the experienced Sevens teams that will be at the tournament, junior scrum-half Jon Tanguay said the squad is proud to be representing Ithaca College at such a renowned international venue.
“It’s going to be challenging, but that’s really why we’re going: to challenge ourselves and see where we’re at as a program and try to get better,” Tanguay said.
As a club sport, in order to fund the trip each player has to pay out of pocket while additional money is collected through player dues and alumni contributions. Senior hooker and captain Jack Heismeyer said 15 players were selected by head coach Annemarie Farrell, while assistant coach Terry Light and Mary Orsaio, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, also had input as to who would be best suited for the team.
“Playing three games in a day is obviously very taxing on your body, and there’s only a limit to how much you can take, so we need enough players to go where we won’t be overextending ourselves,” Heismeyer said. “We have some players that are very fast, very light on their feet, some players that are bigger, more powerful. We’re thinking about what we need on the field when we get to Vegas.”
In rugby Sevens, speed and agility are two of the most important components. The modern style of play consists of two seven-minute halves with seven players per side compared to 15s, which is slower paced, made up of two 40-minute halves with 15 players per side. With the latest addition of Orsaio, sophomore wing and captain Vincent Manta said workouts have become more intense and vigorous. Orsaio said because 15s and Sevens are two different games, the training also varies between the two.
“For 15s, it’s kind of like you’re on cruise control for 40 minutes,” Orsaio said. “It’s like a marathon, whereas Sevens is like a quick sprint of a game. So 15s you might do a longer workout, whereas for Sevens you’re going to do something shorter, high intensity.”
The club started training for the tournament Jan. 12, with two-hour sessions twice a day. Since the spring semester has begun, the team practices four times a week for about an hour and a half to 2 hours each practice.
Practices will typically consist of a 15-minute warm-up, usually a touch game or jogging. Then, the team will run a couple of drills, focusing more on running attack and defensive patterns. To end the practice, the group will usually finish with a scrimmage or game-like scenarios.
Whether the Bombers win or lose, Tanguay said the players are eager to put their somewhat newly acquired skills to the test.
“You don’t learn as much from a win as you do from a loss, so even though we might not win all the games that we play in Vegas, just taking any loss and turning it into your gain is important,” Tanguay said.
Manta said he wants to use the trip to ultimately develop the team’s skills for both future Sevens and 15s games.
“I just want to see us grow as a team and take everything that we’ve learned from playing in Vegas and transfer that into later Sevens tournaments and also into our 15s game,” Manta said. “I hope all these guys on this team step up as leaders to help out the rest of our 15s team become better.”