Most athletes dream of shining in the national spotlight—of sinking buzzer-beating shots, scoring game-winning goals, or hitting walk-off home runs.
For players on the Northeastern University men’s rugby club, that dream could soon become a reality.
The Huskies are one of 20 teams that have been selected to participate in the 2013 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship, which will be held on June 1-2 in Philadelphia and nationally televised on NBC Sports.
The teams have been divided into five pools of four; the winner of each pool and the three best second-place teams will advance to the quarterfinal round. Northeastern’s pool comprises Notre Dame, North Carolina State, and Penn State, whom the Huskies will play first on Friday at 7:20 p.m.
First-year head coach Jamie Green, who played collegiate rugby at the University of Wales, believes in the club’s chances of advancing past pool play. For evidence, he cited the team’s impressive performance in the USA Rugby 7s Collegiate National Championships last fall in which the Huskies won two of their first three matches.
“We’re scrappy, hungry for success, and willing to learn,” Green said. “We have the potential to go all the way.”
Club captain Ty Taylor agreed with his coach’s assessment, saying, “We’re underdogs, but we expect to finish in the top of our group.”
Athletics Director Peter Roby worked to secure Northeastern’s spot in the prestigious tournament, speaking with representatives of the CRC and writing them a letter reiterating his support for the club.
“We’re thrilled to be competing in such an exciting event on the national stage,” he said.
In preparation for the tournament, every player on the Huskies has been working out at Reebok CrossFit Back Bay, which is owned by former Northeastern football player Joshua Plosker. The workout routine includes Olympic lifts such as squats and cleans and is designed to increase player speed and strength, both of which figure prominently in the fast-paced and physical nature of rugby sevens.
According to Green and Taylor, the group workouts speak to the team’s unity. “We play as one,” Taylor explained.
Nicknamed the Maddogs, the club has a rabid following of Northeastern alumni like Anthony Kalaijakis, who will discuss the genesis of the program at a pregame event for approximately 50 erstwhile ruggers who plan on attending the tournament. He cofounded the club in 1984 and is an active member of Friends of Northeastern University Rugby, a nonprofit alumni organization dedicated to raising the club’s national profile through fundraising and community outreach.
“The team is very talented and well coached,” Kalaijakis said of the current band of ruggers. “The Maddogs always rise to the occasion and I’m sure they will make us proud.”
J.P. Bonin played for the club from 1989-1994 and currently serves on the board of its alumni organization.
“I think being invited to this tournament is the best thing that has happened to Northeastern rugby in a long time,” he said. “It is the crème de la crème of exposure and recognition for Northeastern and collegiate rugby.”