Loudonville, New York – For the first time in their history, the New Paltz Rugby Football Club, (NPRFC) are Tri-State Conference champions.
The Hawks defeated their cross-Hudson rivals Vassar College, 55-13 in the Tri-State Conference National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) championship game at Siena College on Sunday, Nov. 6. They previously beat Vassar 44-32 on Sunday, Oct. 16.
The Hawks led 22-8 at halftime before extending their lead, incorporating scores from fourth-year flanker James Evan and fourth-year inside center Kevin Menyhart. Vassar added a late score but the Hawks were able to hang on with a disciplined defensive approach that slowed down their opponent’s ability to move down the field.
In an interview on “The Opinionated Oracle” radio show on 88.7 WFNP The Edge, fourth-year 8-man Dean DeVitis and fourth-year fly-half Tim Stanson both talked about the confidence the team had entering their rematch with Vassar. DeVitis commented that they felt the game was theirs “from the moment we walked on the field,” with Stanson saying that “the energy of the game had a different feel.”
DeVitis added that one of the best parts of the game occurred after the final whistle, when head coach James Fryer, ‘16, was presented with the championship trophy by Tony Brown, Vassar’s head coach and the conference’s commissioner.
Peter Randazzo, a third-year scrum-half, attributed the team’s success to their stingy defensive play, which held Vassar to a season-low 13 points. Randazzo cited the play of second-year prop Tom Roy and DeVitis as solidifying the Hawks’ defensive strategy which stopped Vassar’s forward attacks and allowed the team to singularly defend the line.
“The backs supported this line,” Randazzo said. “As our saying goes, ‘15 makes one.’ I guess it was kind of because of this unison mindset that we were so capable during the game. We all really wanted it and we all worked together through every play to make it happen. That and Tim [Stanson] didn’t make a bad play call all game.”
The championship also marked the return of Ian Gill, a second-year flanker, who had missed the two previous games. Gill reflected on how important the victory was, considering the longstanding rivalry NPRFC has with Vassar, dating back years before he joined the team.
“We capitalized on their weaknesses and that showed by the scoreboard,” Gill said. “I had a lot of aggression and motivation built up from having missed those games, and I think that showed in performance. This was the biggest game of our lives, and passion, fearlessness and trust in one other brought us to victory.”
The Hawks now move on to play the New England Conference champion University of Maine-Orono, in the regional round of 16, which will be held at Eastern Connecticut State University on Saturday, Nov. 19. If they win, the Hawks will advance to the quarterfinals the next day, with a chance to qualify for the national championship to be played next April at Glendale, Colorado.
“Every game could be our last from here on out, and if that’s not motivating I don’t know what is,” Gill said. “The veterans have put in so much work to get us here, and I would love to win a national title with those guys.”
• The New Paltz Rugby Football Club (NPRFC) will play the University of Maine-Orono in the regional round of 16 at Eastern Connecticut State University on Saturday, Nov. 19
• If NPRFC wins, they will advance to the quarterfinals the next day, with a chance to qualify for the national championship to be played next April in Glendale, Colorado