The New Paltz Men’s Rugby team kicked off their season on Sept. 9 with a victory against Sacred Heart University. The Hawks defeated their northeastern rival with a score of 29-17.
This was the first of eight games for the Hawks, who plan to compete in the Union 15 playoffs at the end of the season. In their second match of the season, the team defeated Hofstra University with a score of 13-3.
Fourth-year Co-Captain Dean Hottum said he thinks that this year’s team is a good one. He said last year’s team didn’t do as well as expected, but that won’t be the case this time around.
“The tricky part about college teams is that people graduate, and there are transfers—so the team changes every year,” Hottum said. “But this year, the change is a good change. It all comes down to the teamwork.”
The Hawks are led by rookie Head Coach Anthony Sasso. He said he feels like his job is to work with athletes as individuals in order to make them a team.
“Working together as a whole is the key to the success of any organization,” Sasso said. “With 30-plus individuals involved in the club, there are bound to be a whole lot of different personalities. The guys have done a great job of socializing together and developing bonds on and off the field.”
For second-year hooker Zach Keegan, the strength of this current squad is it’s team-first mentality.
“This team this year is a solid team because we know that to win we must win together, not individually,” Keegan said. “Last season we were more out for independent glory, while this year we support each other and make one another better.”
The team practices Monday through Thursday on the field. Players also work on strength by lifting at least three times a week. The team dedicates Tuesday and Thursday to conditioning at 7 a.m.
Hottum said the team does not take workouts and practices lightly. He said it’s a necessity for their games. The workouts are also important to prepare the team emotionally.
“It’s definitely an emotional game to watch,” Hottum said. “You can really see the kids being emotionally invested in what they’re doing. If they win or score or whatever you can really see it on their faces, it pays off.”
Hottum also said one of the things that motivates the team most is the support of friends, family and the New Paltz community.
“If you’ve never seen a rugby game, it will definitely be entertaining,” Hottum said. “There’s nothing like watching a rugby game. Especially if you know the kids on the field, because you’re watching them put their lives in danger.”
The team competes every Sunday. To see when the team is at home or away, the schedule can be found at www.newpaltzrfc.wix.com/nprfc.