2019 Men's Pool Previews - Collegiate Rugby Championship
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CLEMSON

  • Coach: Steve Lynch
  • CRC Appearances: 3
  • All-time CRC record: 4-11
  • Banners: 2017 Bowl Runner-Up

After a year off, the Tigers return to the CRC with ambitions of doing better than ever before. Clemson debuted at the big dance in 2015, competing three-straight years. The Tigers amassed just one win in that span before going 3-3 in 2017. That uptick was sparked by a second-place showing at the Las Vegas Invitational in March, 2017. This March, Clemson returned to the LVI, this time posting a 3-2 record, bowing out in the Plate semifinals. The Tigers logged wins over Michigan State, St. Joe’s second side, and Syracuse, falling to Colorado and James Madison. They’ve been hard at work since that performance, and the Tigers are confident they have a team that can make the quarterfinals.

A graduated senior with a degree in civil engineering, Drew Dommel captains the Tigers. He’s maybe the team’s most potent weapon, and he’ll be signing with the expansion DC Old Glory of the MLR Sunday. Joel Jaldin captained the team during the 15s season. He’s an impact player on both sides of the ball. Junior Hunter Dawsey was a two-sport athlete in high school who picked up rugby in college. His work ethic is his greatest asset.

LINDENWOOD

  • Coach: Josh Macy
  • Assistant Coach: Nic Tyson, Tyron Turner
  • CRC Appearances: 2
  • All-time CRC record: 10-1
  • Banners: 2018 champion, 2 semifinals, 2 quarterfinals

The stacked Lions look primed for a defense of the Pete Dawkins Trophy. Lindenwood debuted in the big dance in 2017, qualifying as champions of the Las Vegas Invitational before falling to rival Life in the semifinals. There was no sophomore slump for Lindenwood, as the Lions swept the competition, this time beating the Running Eagles in the semifinals en route to the 2018 title. Departed playmaker Nick Feakes was the man who made the Lions go last year. While he’ll be missed, the cupboard is far from bare.

Senior Cristian Rodriguez is one of the most feared scrum-halves in the tournament. His speed, agility and vision make him a danger to score from anywhere, be it from the base of a scrum or in the run of phase play. His lack of size is more than made up for by fellow senior Lorenzo Thomas. The large prop moves extremely well for his size. Having already been capped by the national team, he’s one of the more decorated players in the competition. Junior Ani Mteto is making his CRC debut. The South African center has a unique blend of speed, size and skill, and he likes to use his boot more than most.

TEMPLE

  • Coach: John Sciotto
  • Assistant Coach: Alan Chmielewski, Matt Beck
  • CRC appearances: 8
  • All-time CRC record: 5-29-1
  • Banners: 2015 Shield Champion

Temple is entering its ninth CRC. At the beginning of the spring, the future looked bright for the Owls, with several pieces of the puzzle returning from the year before and the influx of new younger player. This year’s side should be entertaining to watch as they look to earn a few wins. Senior Matt Williams brings another level of experience, having picked up rugby at an early age in England, while junior Adam Shapiro and sophomore Carson Delaney will be the centerpieces of the Temple attack.

The strength of Temple lies in the commitment and solidarity of the players, traits that are also embodied by their coaches. This team prides itself on the toughness and resiliency that has been a distinguishable and consistent quality of every Temple team for 30 years. As a glorified club team at the university, Temple rugby is all-too-familiar with the challenges and adversity that the sport elicits. This atmosphere is something that has rubbed off on the players both on and off the field.  It will tough to find any other team with the same drive and work ethic as Temple’s.

VIRGINIA TECH

  • Coach: Craig Bucher
  • Assistant Coach: Brian O’Neal
  • CRC appearances: 6
  • All-time CRC record: 12-14-2
  • Banners: 2018 Plate Champion

The Hokies are coming off their best-ever showing at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. They started the 2018 tournament with a 1-2 pool performance, scooping up their lone win against Delaware. But day two saw three program wins, as Virginia Tech bested three of the more storied programs in the country consecutively; Arkansas State, Indiana and Army, to win the Plate. The Hokies are hoping to improve on that performance to make their first-ever quarterfinal appearance. They’ve accrued an overall record of 12-8-1 so far this season, finishing fifth at the Cheseapeake 7s and at Kutztown’s tournament.

Senior Brian O’Neal not only plays flyhalf, takes the kickoffs, conversions and patrols the back of the defense as the sweeper, he’s also an assistant coach. His open-field tackling is clutch, and his kicking can decide a match. Fellow senior Bobby McDonnell is another one to keep an eye on. He’s a powerful unit, bumping defenders as a ball carrier, plowing through opposition rucks to steal the ball and usually winning the mark in scrums. Junior scrumhalf Wes Pan provides the pace and stepping ability.

NOTRE DAME

  • Head Coach: Justin Hickey
  • Assistant Coaches: Lonnie Heeter, Peader Timmins
  • CRC Appearances: 9
  • All-time CRC record: 13-29
  • Banners: 2015 Bowl Champion

The Fighting Irish return for their 10th appearance at the Collegiate Rugby Championship. A mainstay, Notre Dame has enjoyed success over the years, but not the last two. The Irish went winless in 2017 and 2018. Their best chance to put an end to that unwanted streak in pool play is likely against either Penn State, which has been prone to the odd upset or two over the years, and debutant St. Bonaventure.

The wins have been rolling in this spring, as Notre Dame boasts a 13-6 record through three tournaments. They mixed it up with some tough competition in Ohio’s State’s leg of the Big Ten 7s Series, claiming fourth. And they finished second to St. Joe’s at the Jesuit Cup and second in their own tournament. Grabbing attention when the Irish take the field is four-year linebacker Rob Regan, who’s transitioning to rugby as a senior. The 6’2, 2013 unit is a load on the wing. He’s joined by junior props Mike Matarazzo and Neilus Mulvihill, who are both good in the air and with offloads in contact, and senior flyhalf Dan Stone, who dots down his share of Notre Dame’s tries thanks to impressive speed.

PENN STATE

  • Head Coach: Justin Hundley
  • CRC Appearances: 9
  • All-time CRC record: 15-21
  • Banners: 5 quarterfinals

Local favorite Penn State is one of just four programs to have played in every Collegiate Rugby Championship. More times than not, the Nittany Lions have made it to the final eight, but they’ve never won a quarterfinal. With 7s guru Justin Hundley in his second year at the helm, they could be poised to go a step further. To do it, they won’t be allowed much time to shake off the rust of a light 7s spring in pool play. Penn State is capable of both beating and losing to the Fighting Irish, Bonnies and Bruins, all of whom have played more 7s than the Nittany Lions in recent months.

No one will go further toward determining the team’s results than senior flyhalf Mike Dabulas. He grew up a coach’s son in Union, N.J., and the extra practice has made him a deft kicker. Look for the Nittany Lions to try and weaponize Dabulas’ restarts. Senior prop Jack McLean will be asked to go up and win many of those kickoffs, and it’ll be up to freshman wing Jesse Capriotti to convert those extra possessions into points with his finishing ability on the outside.

ST. BONAVENTURE

  • Head Coach: Tui Osborne
  • Assistant Coaches:
  • CRC Appearances: 0
  • All-time CRC record: 0-0
  • Banners: 5 quarterfinals

Every year, teams from all over the country travel to Las Vegas and Kansas City to try and qualify for the CRC. Only two teams emerge from those open qualifiers, and they’re usually among the most battle-tested in the entire field. The six teams who have qualified automatically through either vehicle have posted a combined record of 19-12 through the years. Four of them have reached the quarterfinals in their debut, three have gotten to the semifinals, and only one posted a losing record. So Bonaventure is in good company.

The Bonnies are also in good hands under head coach Tui Osborne, who has plenty of CRC experience having formerly been Life’s head coach. The former national team player has his charges well drilled. The Bonnies pride themselves in organized defense and structured attack. Then the big Nick Lupari punches a hole through the defensive line, and they’re off to the races. Bonaventure’s discipline and structure will cause problems for teams who like to gamble.

UCLA

  • Head Coach: Scott Stewart
  • Assistant Coaches: Peter Sio
  • CRC Appearances: 6
  • All-time CRC record: 23-7
  • Banners: 2 Finals, 4 Semifinals, 5 Quarterfinals, 2015 Plate Champion

Twice the bridesmaid but never the bride, there’s only one result that will fulfill the Bruins; hoisting the Pete Dawkins Trophy. Last year, UCLA fell to Lindenwood in the final. Two years earlier, it was rival Cal that bested the Bruins in the championship game. UCLA has competed in six CRCs, making the semifinal four times. With that track record, the Bruins are the favorite of Pool B, but winning the group is far from a foregone conclusion.

Last year’s MVP, Ben Broselle, is now embedded full-time with the national team, but he’s still enrolled at UCLA. Sophomore Eric Naposki is maybe the most electric playmaker in the field. He creates space for everyone around him. Lengthy senior Yanick Mendes is a tough matchup for everyone, and he plucks his share of possession out of the air on restarts. And freshman Shane Barry is following in the footsteps of older brothers Cian and Niall, both of who starred for the Bruins in the CRC. The younger brother is just as good.

CAL

  • Head Coach: Jack Clark
  • Assistant Coaches: Tom Billups, Mike MacDonald
  • CRC Appearances: 8
  • All-time CRC record: 43-2
  • Banners: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Champion, 7 Semifinals, 8 Quarterfinals

Five-time champion Cal has returned to reclaim its crown. The Bears were heavy favorites to win the CRC from its inception in 2010, but Utah and Dartmouth took their turns with the Pet Dawkins Trophy before Cal wrested control from 2013-2017. Only a few Bears remain from the last CRC tile run, but the team is fully loaded. It’s going to have to be to get out of pool play, as rival Life makes a quarterfinal bid far from guaranteed. The Running Eagles and Bears have clashed in the last two 15s national championship matches, with Life winning both times.

Huge for the Bears in both 15s and 7s is freshman Sam Walsh. The Boston-born, Hong Kong-and-New Zealand-raised flyhalf has represented the United States at the U20 level, and he’s played for the Falcons, the senior Olympic developmental team. He can run people over, make them miss, and create for others. Leading the Bears, though, is wing Sam Cusano. He was named the tournament MVP in 2017 as a freshman, and he’s only gotten better with age. So has fellow junior Christian Dyer, who has two PAC 7s titles and one CRC championship under his belt.

COLORADO

  • Head Coaches: Sean Kilfoyle (7s), Chris Hanson (15s)
  • Assistant Coaches: John Cox, Ben Hirschmann, Chris Dyas
  • CRC Appearances: 0
  • All-time CRC record: 0-0

The Colorado Buffaloes are making their first trip to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, impressing the tournament organizers with a second-place finish to two-time Pete Dawkins Trophy winners Dartmouth at the Las Vegas Invitational in March. On their run in Sin City, the Buffs downed two-time CRC finalist Kutztown, helping punch their ticket to the big dance. Colorado also went undefeated at the Rocky Mountain conference tournament this spring.

Colorado hasn’t played on the national stage since claiming the inaugural PAC 7s title in 2011. Everyone from that team is long gone, but the Buffs have talent. Sophomore halfback Jordan Savage is an unpredictable playmaker who can thread a needle. Fellow sophomore Soren Heitmann is a multi-tool lynchpin to the CU attack. He wins ball in the air and in the breakdowns and is potent with ball in hand. Senior prop Evan Alverson is also good on kickoffs, but his defense is what stands out the most.

INDIANA

  • Head Coach: David Fee
  • Assistant Coach: Justin Goonan
  • CRC Appearances: 5
  • All-time CRC record: 14-10-1
  • Banners: 1 Semifinal, 2 Quarterfinals

The Hoosiers return to the CRC under the tutelage of head coach David Fee, a former member of the national team. He has his hands full this season with a stacked pool and a young squad that includes nine underclassmen, but a trio of senior leaders bring a track record of success at the CRC. So far, the results have been as mixed as the experience on the roster. While Indiana finished the Big Ten 7s series ranked first amongst conference rivals, they fell short in the semifinals of the championship tournament. Overall, the Hoosiers are 10-10 in 7s this spring.

Seniors Brian Hannon, Jacob Parmater and Dan Devlin were all part of the IU squad that beat Kutztown and UCLA en route to the program’s only semifinal appearance. Hannon and Parmater are local products, coming out of the vaunted Royal Irish and Penn programs, repsecitvely. A former High School All-American and U20 national team member, Hannon is a talented playmaker who can also carry and tackle. Parmater adds a physical presence on the wing, and Devlin deals well from the halfback position.

LIFE

  • Head Coach: Colton Cariaga
  • CRC Appearances: 7
  • All-time CRC record: 26-10-1
  • Banners: 2 Finals, 5 Semifinals, 7 Quarterfinals

When it comes to consistency under the bright lights, Life is in rarified air. The Running Eagles have never failed to make the quarterfinal round, and they’ve been one of the final four teams standing in five of their seven tournament appearances. Twice, the Running Eagles have reached the championship game only to fall short to Cal. In total, the Bears have eliminated Life from title contention three times, winning every meeting between the two programs at the CRC. In 15s, the script is flipped, as the Running Eagles have bested Cal in back-to-back national championship games, including last month.

Life is led by a trio of electric talents. Earlier this spring, outside back Harley Wheeler was awarded the Rudy Scholz Award, rugby’s version of the Heisman Trophy. The Tennesseean runs with a chip on his shoulder. His aggression and motor pair nicely with speed, evasion and a handy skillset. Mitch Wilson and Duncan Van Schalkwyk may actually be more complete players, though, as they’re just as comfortable creating for others as they are doing for themselves. Both are deceptively strong and possess every tool in the game.

BOSTON COLLEGE

  • Head Coach: Rob Conway
  • Assistant Coach: Kareem Afifi
  • CRC Appearances: 5
  • All-time CRC record: 4-17-1
  • Banners: 2015 Shield Runner-Up

The Eagles return for their sixth CRC campaign, with sights set on their first winning record. Boston College has been on the doorstep of winning hardware before, coming up a game shy of the Shield in 2015. BC went winless in pool play last year. Their best chance at breaking that streak might be against Liberty conference rival Iona. The Eagles conjured enough magic to knock off returning semifinalist Indiana in 2017, spoiling the Hoosiers’ campaign, so they’re capable of punching above their weight.

The spring season was shortened by a long winter, preventing the Eagles from playing as much as they would have liked. In the two tournaments they did play, they had mixed results, finishing third at the Northeast Liberty Championship and taking home the shield at the Jesuit Cup. The Eagles are led by a trio of juniors. Center Riley Curtin is an amazing decision maker under pressure and leads from the front as captain. Halfback Nate Lyon has a high motor and his consistent restart is a conundrum for opponents. Prop Jack Hock is an excellent athlete. He has length, speed and strength and causes fits for the opposing defense.

IONA

  • Head Coach: Bruce McLane
  • Assistant Coaches: Paul Enright
  • CRC Appearances: 1
  • All-time CRC record: 2-1-1
  • Banners: 1 Quarterfinal

The Gaels are back for their sophomore showing at the Collegiate Rugby Championship, looking to improve on a quarterfinal appearance in their debut. Iona went undefeated in pool play, slaying perennial powerhouse Kutztown, local favorite Temple and drawing with two-time champion Dartmouth. Arizona bounced the Gaels in the first game of the second day. Iona has been active so far this spring, beating Kutztown again.

All of Iona’s best players from last year are back. Age-grade All-American halfback Connor Buckley is one of the better passers in the field. He captains the team as a sophomore. A pair of towering forwards book end one of the most imposing packs in the country. Santi Mascolo is an Argentine-born All-American whose array of skills has suited him well at both No. 8 and flyhalf. Mike Scarcella’s best traits are a little more like his running style – straightforward. The native Rhode Islander is a chiseled specimen who can run over and around opponents in both attack and defense. Bryce Stanback does the stepping the middle of the field, creating space for the bigs guys to rumble out wide.

KUTZTOWN

  • Head Coach: Dr. Gregg Jones
  • Assistant Coaches: Mr. Jeff Duke
  • CRC Appearances: 6
  • All-time CRC record: 20-11
  • Banners: 2 Finals, 3 Semifinals, 5 Quarterfinals, 2018 Bowl Champion

Kutztown’s sterling program is one of the crown jewels of Eastern Pennsylvania rugby. The Golden Bears have set the standard in the region for decades, and they give local fans a reason to believe the Pete Dawkins Trophy might stay nearby. Kutztown has twice lost in the final to Cal, once in overtime. However, last season the Bears took a step back, failing to reach the quarterfinals for the first time ever. Pool losses to Dartmouth and Iona proved insurmountable, but KU rebounded to sweep the Bowl bracket on day two. A new season provides opportunity for revenge, as Iona once again stands in Kutztown’s way.

The most recognizable star in the tournament is third-year scrumhalf Dmontae Noble. Listed generously at 5’7”, what he lacks in height he makes up for in explosiveness. He can evade and break tackles with equal ease, and his skills make him a playmaker. He partners with Keagan Barnes, of similar build with a resembling skillset, for an electric dynamic duo. Both can create something from nothing and have to be accounted for at all times. Bringing the heft is captain Gerald Lowe. Back home in South Africa, he took part in the academy for the professional Blue Bulls. At 6’3”, 225 pounds, he fills the shoes of departed Wes Hartmann nicely. Washington, D.C. product Aaron Gray is another one to watch out for. His combination of speed and power has graced several all-star and select-side teams over the years.

WISCONSIN

  • Head Coach: Scott Adlington
  • CRC Appearances: 5
  • All-time CRC record: 12-10-2
  • Banners: 1 Quarterfinal, 2016 & 2017 Plate Champion

Big Ten power Wisconsin returns for its sixth Collegiate Rugby Championship appearance. The Badgers have found success recently, racking up 10 wins over the last three years. Only Cal and UCLA have scored more CRC wins in that timeframe. However, the Badgers have managed just one quarterfinal appearance, and zero since their debut in 2012. They claimed the Plate title in 2017, overcoming a 1-2 pool start to blitz Army, St. Joe’s and Dartmouth on the trot on day two.

Freshman phenom Owen Sheehy is one to look out for. He’s represented the USA at the U20 level, following in the footsteps of big brother Patrick Sheehy, a standout for Dartmouth, and father Paul, a former national team member. The Badgers are led by captain Malcom Clark, a three-sport athlete in high school, and their ranks are supplemented by a trio of crossover varsity athletes. Tom Wennerstum comes to rugby from the rowing team, Jack Russell joins from the Lacrosse team, and Jacob Benzing recently made the switch after walking onto the Badger football team as a safety.

ARIZONA

  • Head Coach: Sean Duffy
  • Assistant Coach: Jack Arnold
  • CRC Appearances: 9
  • All-time CRC record: 26-15-1
  • Banners: 1 Final, 5 Semifinals, 7 Quarterfinals

Only five-time champion Cal has booked its place in more quarterfinals and semifinals than Arizona. In the 10-year history of the CRC, the Wildcats have missed out on the final eight just twice. That track record has them as the top seed and favorite in this group. But if they’re going to make good on it, they’ll have to beat St. Mary’s. The Gaels have won three 15s national championships in the last handful of years, and if they were playing that version of the game, they’d be favored. But 7s and the CRC is Arizona’s home turf. The Wildcats play their 7s in the fall, and they amassed a 13-3 record through three tournaments last semester. Their only warm-up for the CRC will be USA Rugby’s national tournament two weeks prior.

The Wildcats are led by senior scrumhalf Matt Rogers. A finalist for the Rudy Scholz Award, college rugby’s trophy for player of the year, Rogers is a first-team All-Conference selection and an All-American candidate. The captain’s speed, rugby IQ and playmaking ability will be a driver for Arizona all weekend. Older brother Kyle has moved on from Tuscon and is playing in Major League Rugby, but younger brother Jon, a sophomore, is on the team. He’s a weapon in the air on restarts, and he can kick himself. Junior hooker Ben Scoular is the vice captain. A former age-grade player for Scotland, his intelligence is his biggest asset.

FORDHAM

  • Head Coach:
  • Assistant Coaches:
  • CRC Appearances: 0
  • All-time CRC record: 0-0

There are several qualification vehicles for the big dance, including the Freedom Cup. Every year, a handful of teams compete in this bracket alongside the main event at the CRC. The winner qualifies for the next year’s CRC. Enter the Fordham Rams, winners of the 2018 Freedom Cup division, besting West Chester in the final. Fordham is a growing program, climbing the competitive ladder over the last few years.

The results have been hard to come by this spring for the Rams, but they could get a big boost with the return of senior center Maxim Zhitnik, son of former NHL star Alexei Zhitnik. He dotted down 30 tries last spring en route to Fordham winning the Liberty Conference 7s Championship and the Freedom Cup. With or without Zhitnik, Fordham can count on the leadership of fifth-year senior Nathaniel Fisher, who is the lone holdover from Fordham’s first 7s team. The Rams will also lean on the abilities of prop Finn McCarrick, a product of McQuaid Jesuit (NY). He is known to come up with clutch kicks when needed. Fellow prop Jack Palillo is new to 7s, but his fitness will be a boon to the squad. Nick Lami’s size won’t, as he may be the smallest player in the tournament, but the decorated former wrestler is a sure tackler and will be the last line of defense at sweeper.

ST. JOSEPH’S

  • Head Coach: Dan Yarusso
  • Assistant Coaches: David Niu
  • CRC Appearances: 6
  • All-time CRC record: 12-15-1
  • Banners: 2014 Bowl Champion

Local favorites St. Joe’s have become a Cinderella candidate to make waves this year. They’re led by arguably the best player in the country, and they have been building as a program since Dan Yarusso took over as head coach. Still, the quarterfinals remain uncharted territory for the Hawks. Four of their six CRC campaigns have ended in the plate semifinals, including the last three. Never have they been one of the final eight teams fighting for the Pete Dawkins Trophy. If this is the year St. Joe’s takes that step, it’s going to take some work, with behemoths St. Mary’s and Arizona in the same group. The Hawks enter the tournament well prepared, having won two tournaments this spring; the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference championship and the Jesuit Cup.

Central to the upset mission is Noah Niu, the do-everything junior for St. Joe’s. The son of assistant coach David Niu, a former Australian international, Niu has the most advanced handling skills of any college player in the country. His field vision is also second to none, and it’s coupled with deceptive strength, speed and all-around athleticism in a compact package. One of the teammates he’ll be creating for is senior center Aram Kesh. Where Niu deceives and evades opponents, Kesh steamrolls them. He’ll require the full attention of two defenders most of the weekend. Senior prop George Harris will be asked to win possession for Niu and Kesh on restarts, a key battleground for the Hawks.

ST. MARY’S

  • Head Coach: Tim O’Brien
  • Assistant Coaches: Johnny Everett
  • CRC Appearances: 1
  • All-time CRC record: 3-1
  • Banners: 1 Quarterfinal

There isn’t a team in the tournament with less of a track record that’s as feared as St. Mary’s. From a win percentage perspective, the Gaels rank sixth all-time, as they went 3-1 in their lone CRC appearance in 2017. They swept their pool before falling to Life by a single conversion in the quarterfinals. St. Mary’s has won USA Rugby’s 7s title before, and they’ve claimed three of the last five 15s championships, regularly testing and beating the likes of Cal and Life. So if you want to seem in the know, tell your friends seated around you your dark horse is St. Mary’s.

A cavalcade of talented players will likely trot out for the Gaels. The brothers Yacoubian hail from Scotland, and they’re very seasoned and skilled decision makers. Vili Helu and Ronan Murphy are bookend props who’ll boast a size advantage over most any other pack. They’re both tough, talented, skilled big men who move well. They have the ability to take games over themselves. The Gaels are known for their fast, free-flowing, entertaining style, and 7s is the perfect arena to show it off. Perhaps no player displays that flare more than Aaron Matthews, who represented the USA at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. If he’s rested and recovered from a long 15s campaign, he’ll be one of the tournament’s prized thoroughbreds.

ARMY

  • Head Coach: Matt Sherman
  • Assistant Coaches: Kyle Sumsion, Phil Terrigno, Dave Katz
  • CRC Appearances: 6
  • All-time CRC record: 15-13-2
  • Banners: 1 Final, 1 Semifinal, 1 Quarterfinal, 2016 Bowl Champion

Once upon a time, the Black Knights were a contender for the Pete Dawkins Trophy, that named after the famed West Point Heisman Trophy winner who picked up the sport of rugby while studying at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. They finished second to Dartmouth at the 2011 CRC. But the wins have been harder to come by in recent years, as Army hasn’t gotten back to quarterfinals since. Though the cadets boast a winning record overall, most of those victories have come in consolation play.

The most important record, though, is that against rival Navy. The all-academy bout is an annual highlight of the tournament, and against Navy the Black Knights have won three, lost two and drawn once on the CRC battleground. Navy has the last laugh, though, beating Army 26-7 in 2018. Central to Army’s effort to best Navy this time around is a trio of stars. Junior center Sam Sutera lifts the team with thunderous tackles, and freshman Max Sackett’s tenacity in the tackle is a borderline superpower. Sophomore center Luke Haug brings the pace and evasive running. He’ll likely need to spring free for a few tries for Army to reach its potential.

DARTMOUTH

  • Head Coach: James Willocks
  • Assistant Coaches: Hamish McCallion
  • CRC Appearances: 9
  • All-time CRC record: 31-12
  • Banners: 2011 & 2012 Champion, 2 Semifinals, 7 Quarterfinals

Seven must be Dartmouth’s lucky number. It’s been seven years since Dartmouth claimed back-to-back 7s titles at the CRC, catapulting coach Alex Magleby, a former 7s Eagle, to the position of head coach of the national team. He’d move on to general manager and set both the men’s and women’s national teams on a course that has them ranked first and second in the world, respectively. This spring, the Big Green sit a perfect 10-0 in 7s, having swept the competition to claim titles at the Las Vegas Invitational and Ivy Championships. The latter means the most to Dartmouth’s powerful alumni base, but the former has people whispering about the Big Green’s potential return to the podium.

Though Dartmouth has won more titles and matches at the CRC than anyone not named Cal, the Big Green haven’t advanced past the quarterfinals since 2012. If they’re going to do it this year, they’re going to need some big shifts from senior props, co-captains and leaders Struan Coleman and Fuller Winton. They both lead by example with superior aerial abilities. The man who makes it all go, though, is freshman Mike Weir. The diaper dandy runs the show from either halfback position, and his deft passing and clear field vision make the Big Green tough to beat.

NAVY

  • Head Coach: Gavin Hickie
  • Assistant Coaches: Michael Coyner, Richard Merryman, Kyle Millerd
  • CRC Appearances: 9
  • All-time CRC record: 16-22-1
  • Banners: 1 Semifinal, 6 Quarterfinals

Like Dartmouth, Navy has played in ever Collegiate Rugby Championship. The Midshipmen have traditionally done well on day one but struggled to find any success on day two. Last year, they were bounced in the quarterfinals for the sixth time in nine tournament appearances. To get another shot at the semifinals, Navy is going to have to come out on top of rival Army, double-champ Dartmouth and South Carolina. Considering Navy’s results this spring, tournament victories at the All-Academy 7s and Penn State’s four-team competition, that’s well within reach.

Gone are all-everything performers Gardy Labon and Conor McNerney, but Navy has plenty of firepower. Phil Dalke is a physical, athletic forward who’s already caught the attention of the USA Falcons, the senior Olympic developmental team. Erick Bleakley is a big ball-carrying wing who can make dents on the edge. Captain and center Michael Samaniego can do damage in both attack and defense, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Head Coach: Steve Darnell
  • CRC Appearances: 4
  • All-time CRC record: 6-10-1
  • Banners: 1 Quarterfinal

The Gamecocks are three-time Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference champions, advancing this past spring with a 15-1 tournament record, marking their fourth Penn Mutual CRC berth in five years. The Cocks finished 19th in 2014, advanced to 12th with a 2-3 record in 2016, won the Bowl Championship against in-state rival Clemson in 2017, and finished 13th in 2018. Team captains Micah Stewart and Danny Callahan have been the most consistent this season. Micah is quick to the defensive breakdown and turns the ball over more often than not. Danny is the playmaker and team’s scrumhalf. He steers the defense from the sweeper position and creates attacking opportunities with his decision making.

Danny is joined by two fellow alums of the prep powerhouse Gonzaga out of Washington, D.C., Nick Skalka and Jacob Powers. All three are veterans of a couple of high school national championships, and this will be the fourth and final season for the three to play together at Carolina. Sophomore Colin Callahan will be looking to contribute after returning from a broken leg, he is an attacking threat and a solid defender playing in both the forwards and backs.  Scotsman Walker Graham is quick to the breakdown and often find openings the opposition’s defense. They have been essential to the team’s success this season and they will be key for the team’s future success as well.

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