The New Paltz Men’s Rugby Team tied longtime rival Vassar College for the first time since 1987.
On Sunday, March 27, the Hawks traveled to Brewer territory, ready and determined to play their best. Unfortunately, during the first matchup they suffered a 28-7 loss. Not letting that get to them, the boys in blue and orange took the next week to practice. They returned to Vassar on Saturday, April 2, and improved all around, holding Vassar to a final score of 5-5.
First-year President Caleb Persanis said the incredible difference in their performance was definitely due to the work they put in throughout the week. All five days before the matchup, the team met up just to do something together as a team. Whether that was practicing or watching film from their previous game, the Hawks were in the right mindset to face Vassar again.
“[The mood was] triumphant,” Persanis said. “But also, there was a touch of ‘we’re so close to beating them this time’ but still, [we’re] very satisfied with our performance.”
The Hawks also just got back from a trip to SUNY Potsdam where they placed third in an invitational tournament.
Games are scheduled through their league, and New Paltz is a part of the tri-states league. Interestingly, it is run by the Vassar’s Coach, Tony Brown, which adds an extra layer of competition between the schools. As the spring semester is winding down, New Paltz will not face Vassar again until the fall.
The Hawks have a brand new coach themselves: Tim Downey, who coached at Iona until last year. Persanis said he thinks Downey has some big ideas for the team.
With every good thing comes its fair share of challenges, though. Since the team is a club sport, Downey isn’t allowed to host an official practice on the South Turf Field. Due to a flooding issue on the rugby pitch during the beginning of this season, the team had to train indoors in the yoga room. Clearly, a room designed for a couple people to do yoga isn’t quite right for tackling and passing drills.
Second-year Captain Sean O’Hehir said that the situation was a damper on the beginning of the season and potentially slowed their growth as a team for a bit.
The South Turf Field, which was paid for by the Student Association, was originally designed as a space for both intramural and club sports, but @nphawks now fails to mention club sports at all. The school website says, “The South Turf Field opened during the fall of the 2014-15 academic year, providing additional space for intramurals, both varsity soccer and men’s lacrosse.” This is different from an article New Paltz published when the South Turf Field first opened, stating it was built to provide, “More available space for students to participate in intramural and club sports.” Even the former Athletic Director, Stuart Robinon, is quoted stating the field was intended for club sports as well.
O’Hehir explained how when the team goes places, they represent New Paltz, and wants to know that the school has their backs, and cares about what’s best for the club, to keep it going and funded.
“We don’t really get that feeling,” O’Hehir said. “We feel, almost like, they see us as a burden, and that we’re causing problems for their pockets.”
Persanis added that they want to be heard, seen, respected and cared for.
These sentiments are not new, currently, the New Paltz Equestrian Team is fighting not to be demoted back into a club. The New Paltz Cheer Team has also talked to The Oracle about the frustrations of being a club sport, despite being a “sport sport” in all other ways that matter.
Despite the challenges, Persanis wanted to end on a positive note, and thank Kevin Makarewicz, Bill Clark, Brian Williams, Rick Drosdowich and Emily Holub, feeling like they’ve all looked for solutions along the way.
“Next season expect to see a great group of recruits, several home games and many more victories for the Hawks,” Persanis said.