The USF rugby team will head for Arkansas this weekend knowing that just two victories will give it a shot at a national championship.
The Bulls will compete in the Elite 8 Tournament in Jonesboro, Ark. taking on Sam Houston Saturday. If successful, a second victory Sunday over the winners of the other Pool A match between Claremont and Northern Iowa would see the Bulls qualify for the Collegiate Division II National Championship in Virginia Beach on May 5.
Coach Jerry Morrone said he wanted the Bulls to match the performance level they achieved when defeating first division side Penn State in March.
“Not having seen (Sam Houston) play I can’t say we’ve got an advantage over them,” Morrone said. “But if we play to the level we showed against Penn State we’re more than a match for anyone.”
Morrone said he was pleased there were no injuries in the squad but was concerned that limited funding had restricted the number of players making the trip. The USF rugby team is deemed a club and does not have access to any funding from the athletics department.
“We’re traveling light in that for two games, we’ve got 22 players. We can’t afford to lose anyone,” he said.
Joey Hoffman, second row lock, said the team had been focused on the Elite 8 since its return from the Rugby South Championship tournament in Myrtle Beach where a win and a loss was enough for the Bulls to qualify for the Elite 8.
“We’ve been practicing heavily on lineouts and scrums, with a lot of training centralized around conditioning,” Hoffman said. “We’re in better condition now than we were at Myrtle Beach.”
Hoffman said the Bulls’ successes this season mean they no longer enter tournaments such as this as underdogs.
“Some of the other coaches around the nation favor us to win,” Hoffman said
Hoffman said the influence of the older players was one of the main factors behind the success of the rugby team this year.
“We have a lot of guys that are close to graduating,” Hoffman said. “These guys know how to prepare themselves and help the younger guys in the team.”
Contact Chris O’Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org