Men’s rugby claims victory in the Tri-State Conference Championship

The Vassar men’s rugby team clinched an important win over Hofstra University in the Tri-State Conference Championships earlier this month, marking the first time the team has won the tournament in six years of competition and earning them the Tri-State Conference Small College Title. Following a tumultuous second half when the team went down to 14 players because of a red card, the Brewers were able to not only recover the lead but end with triumph, winning 47-31. Tony Brown, who has served as Vassar’s head coach since 1995 on both the men’s and women’s side, likened the unexpected comeback to Harry Truman’s underdog victory in the 1948 election.

After leading 12-0 in the first half, Vassar faced a hard battle in the second when one player received a red card due to accidental head-to-head contact. Hofstra made a comeback after trailing throughout the first half and managed to take the lead 31-19. TJ Usher ’27 shared, “With around 15 minutes left, we were down by a few scores, one of our players was ejected and the team morale wasn’t too high.”

Despite the unexpected loss of a player and a 12-point setback, the team pulled off an impressive upset. Kiran Mullen ’26 shared in a written statement to The Miscellany News, “Everyone on the team rallied, though, and we scored four consecutive ‘trys’ with all the kicks being made which put us 47-31 ahead.” He added, “In the end, the last 20 minutes of good tackles by our forwards and the speed of our backs won us the game.” 

Bryce DiNardo ’24 said of the match, “We ended up making some big tackles after the red card and were able to steal the ball back. From there, we just played our systems and ended up scoring. From that point on, we kept the ball for almost the rest of the game and played together as a cohesive unit to come out on top.” 

The win was particularly special after Vassar lost to Hofstra the year prior. For the seniors on the team, the win also reflected how far the program has come since the pandemic. DiNardo commented, “Vassar men’s rugby (and college rugby as a whole) was hard-hit by COVID-19, and growing the program back up has been a challenge.” He continued, “Additionally, this win really just goes to show how much heart and camaraderie we have as a team. Always undersized compared to our competition, we were able to work hard, play for each other and play our game, which, in the end, let us win.”

Usher echoed similar sentiments saying, “This win is a step forward for our program.” He continued, “As players, it was an extremely satisfying victory. Not only does the win represent the amount of effort the team has put in over the season but also the coordinated systems by the coaches and staff.”

Following the Brewers’ major achievement at the Tri-State Conference Championship, the team advanced to the National Collegiate Rugby Playoffs this past weekend, Nov. 11-12. Vassar’s lineup was missing seven of their starting players and ended up losing to Roger Williams University. Mullen commented, “We had a pretty tough loss this weekend, but it was very expected because we were missing 7 out of our 15 starting players due to injury or other commitments. Considering the team we fielded, I thought we did quite well, and it definitely would have been a very close game with our full team available.” 

While the Brewers may not have had the result they hoped for at Nationals, the team still had a strong season. After five consecutive wins to open the season, including a victory against Marist College, the team lost a close away contest at Wesleyan University. 

After their first and only non-playoff loss of the season, the team responded with a semifinal victory in the Tri-State playoffs against Maritime College before winning the championship match. For the team, their 8-2 season is an impressive improvement from their 5-7 campaign last year. This year’s succesful season also marks the program’s best record since a 4-2  season in 2018 and a 14-4 season in 2017.

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