Rugby team makes a name for SHSU despite Elite 8 loss

While many students were celebrating the holiday weekend the SHSU Department of Recreational Sports and the SHSU rugby football team hosted the Elite 8 Tournament at the SHSU Intramural Fields. Games were held last Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, with a new game beginning every one hour and 45 minutes.

The Elite 8 Tournament was the first national tournament, of any sport played at SHSU, to be hosted on campus by Sam Houston State.

After winning second place at Westerns April 5 – 6 in Dallas, SHSU’s rugby team was invited to attend the Elite 8 as one of two teams picked to attend. That weekend SHSU beat New Mexico Tech 45 – 0 and Southeastern Oklahoma 32 – 15.

Seven schools other than SHSU played in the tournament. Santa Rosa Junior College of Southern California, Pacific Division winner; the University of Northern Colorado, Western Division first place winner; University of Northern Iowa, Midwest Division winner; Radford University out of Virginia, Mid-Atlantic winner; Claremont College out of California, Southern California Division winner; Middlebury College out of Vermont, Northeastern Division winner and Arkansas State, Southern Division winner all attended the tournament last weekend.

“This is the second year in a row we’ve made it,” said Amy Swingle, assistant director of Club Sports and Special Events at SHSU, of the Elite 8. “This is the biggest tournament we could bring here.”

SHSU played Santa Rosa on Saturday afternoon, missing the winning score by a mere four tries. After being ahead 10 1/2 tries SHSU lost the lead, and a penalty kick by Santa Rosa in the last five minutes of the game put the opposing team on top. The final score was 30 – 27.

“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but we had a good season,” said Casey Dillon, SHSU rugby team captain.

The two finalists in the Elite 8 go on to the championship game in California after the national tournament. Radford University and the University of Northern Colorado will be the two to attend.

After losing the game on Saturday, SHSU played a lighthearted consolation game against Middlebury College on Sunday and lost 26 – 0.

Each team traditionally begins each game with a haka, or a “war cry” to intimidate the opposing team. After Middlebury’s haka, the SHSU rugby team replied with doing the hokey pokey in the middle of the field.

“We were all kind of having fun, and we were looking to see what position who would play next year,” said coach Wesley Boyd of the Sunday game.

Overall, the rugby team and Recreational Sports feel the tournament went well.

“It was a huge success,” Boyd said.

Swingle said everything the tournament entailed ran smoothly, and that the other schools attending were very impressed with SHSU.

“We got a lot of positive feedback from the referees, the teams and the players,” Swingle said. “Sam Houston definitely made a name for itself.”

Due to the winning performance of the rugby team over the last two years, Boyd said SHSU’s program will likely be moved to a Division I sport. The rugby team will then play against schools like Texas Tech, the University of Texas and Texas A&M.

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