The SF State men’s rugby club gained valuable experience at the West Campus Green on Saturday, Sept. 22 in a 2-2 sevens tournament effort. This was the club’s first test before the rapidly approaching Pac West Seven’s National Qualifying Tournament.
The Gators hosted a four-team tournament, getting much needed experience for both their young starting A side and their B side, which includes many rookie players. For some, it was their first time ever playing a rugby match, according to head coach Wade Hess.
“These first couple games of the season are going to be decided by mistakes,” Hess said. “With college rugby, with any team at least half of their players are brand new to the game.”
Originally, the tournament was supposed to include five teams, but University of the Pacific did not show up to the scheduled tournament, according to SF State senior forward and club president Victor Mendez.
Mendez explained that because the NCAA does not recognize rugby as a sport, often times the club presidents of the teams, who often tend to be students, have to organize matches and events.
“It was a little stressful, but it was fun at the same time,” Mendez said regarding the process of organizing this tournament. He mentioned having to schedule the referees, getting the teams to show up and calling trainers on his list of responsibilities as club president.
The Gators were tested in eight contests: four for their A side, and another four for their B side when Fresno State, San Jose State and Santa Rosa Junior College visited to clash in sevens rugby.
These contests are meant to test how the Gators will perform in different situations, while keeping the overall health of the team a priority, according to Hess.
“If I push it too hard in the first tournament, they’re going to play injured,” Hess said about the balancing act of challenging his players, while trying to prevent any major injuries.
Unfortunately, the Gators were not able to come out of the tournament unscathed, as Jack Shearer (9) dislocated his shoulder in the first game of the contest, according to Mendez.
In their first contest, the SF State A side came out strong against San Jose State, winning four tries to two. While they had a rocky first half with many drops and mistakes, they came back with a dominant second half performance.
“Our guys really shut them down,” said SF State back Paul “Saucy” Saccomano about the team’s defensive effort.
Saccomano got his nickname for making exceptional passes, but it was his feet that helped the Gators in that contest, as he scored two tries.
The Gators executed much better at the start of their second game, this time against Fresno State. They were able to send the ball back and forth a couple times in the first half of a tight one-try-to-one-try game. Fresno State capitalized on a missed tackle late in the second half to escape with a victory.
In their third contest of the tournament, against Santa Rosa Junior College, the Gators suffered a 4-1 loss with many mistakes, along with noticeable fatigue.
“The first thing is fitness,” Hess said about what his team needs to work on. “Then also, some of the basics on the defense, and we need to come up with a second style for when they’re tired.”
SF State rebounded with another win over San Jose State, a 5-2 effort where the Gator A side looked rejuvenated.
While the Gators’ A side used the tournament to see where their squad stands and what they need to work on, the B side let many of the club newcomers get their first taste of college rugby.
“Right now we have to work on communication,” said SF State first-year forward Victor “Vern” Oregel about the B side’s first game.
Oregel was able to score his first try in his first career rugby match against San Jose State.
The Gators rugby team will continue practicing and play a couple more tournaments before heading on to the Pax West Sevens National Qualifying Tournament on Nov. 3 at Fresno State.