The University of Southern Indiana’s Rugby Club is celebrating its most successful year in club history, going undefeated in conference play, winning the NSCRO (National Small College Rugby Organization) State Championship for the second year in a row, and advancing to the regional qualifying round for the first time in club history.
The team, part of Division III (small college) rugby, will play in the Mid-Central Regional Tournament November 16-17, in Elkhart, Indiana. They defeated Wisconsin Parkside, the team that defeated them a year ago in the qualifying match. Only four of the 56 Midwest teams advanced to the regional. Winners of the four national regionals will move on to the national finals in April in Glendale, Colorado, headquarters of the USA Rugby Association.
“This is a great bunch of student athletes,” said Kurt Murrell, head coach. “They run most of the organization on their own. It’s incredible to see where they’ve come from and where they’re going now. Most of these guys haven’t had past rugby experience.”
This is Murrell’s fifth year volunteering to coach the club along with two other volunteer coaches. Until recent years, much of the coaching was done by the players themselves. Murrell had experience with rugby in other parts of the country and volunteers to coach when he relocated to Evansville about five years ago. “One of the first things I looked for when I moved to the area was a way to get involved with a Rugby club. I was lucky to find the club at USI—the only one in the area,” he said.
The USI Men's Rugby Club started in 1991 and competes in matches in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky during the regular season. The team has seen a recent resurgence and currently has more than 35 members.
This year, the team also played in the Vanderbilt Oak Leaf Tournament September 21-22, and was the only Division III team to participate in the tournament made up of Division I and Division II teams such as the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, and University of Alabama. The team advanced to the championship match where it lost to Alabama, the club’s only loss this season.
Many collegiate rugby clubs are made up of players that have experience at the high school level but since the sport has only recently started to gain momentum in Southern Indiana, that’s not the case at USI. Only a third of players have any previous experience. “This is one of best teams I’ve seen USI put together,” said Doug Rose, club president and biochemistry major at USI. “The fact that we can take members who have never played rugby before and turn them into state champs in two or three years is remarkable.”
“I’ve been playing with the team for three years now and we’ve gotten to know each other well,” added Rose. “After that much time, you start to predict what your teammates are going to do. Even our rookies are stepping up and bringing a lot of speed and agility to the team.” He expects the team to do well at the upcoming regional competition. “If we play the same as we have been against some of these Division I and II teams, I see no reason we can’t take it to the next level.”
Find out more about USI Rugby at www.usirugby.com.
Photo Credit: USI Photography Services
The USI Rugby Club will play in the Mid-Central Regional Tournament November 16-17, in Elkhart, Indiana.