Perseverance is a common characteristic that nearly all high-performing sports teams share. With its reputation as one of the toughest and most strenuous sports, rugby demands a steadfast determination from its players on and off the field.
It was this perseverance that enabled the Colorado College men’s rugby team to overcome difficulties with division and funding, while finishing with one of their best seasons ever, even earning a spot to play in the USA Rugby Division II National Tournament.
The first bit of adversity that the team faced was their move to Division II. As one of the few DII rugby teams west of the Mississippi, the divisional change created a scheduling and funding nightmare. With a limited budget, funding multiple trips to both coasts to play other DII teams was out of the picture.
Instead, the team had to rely on matches against closer opponents, mostly Division I B teams, to fill their schedule. The Colorado College men’s rugby team did not shy from these tough opponents, posting a regular season record of 6-1, beating the likes of New Mexico Highlands, Adam State, Colorado State, and Air Force.
In early November, however, with only two games left in the regular season, the Colorado College men’s rugby team’s postseason hopes still looked rather dim.
“It was hard for USA Rugby to gauge our strengths as a team as most of the teams we played were not in our division. We also needed seven regular season games to be eligible for postseason play. The legitimacy of some of our games was questionable as some looked like scrimmages and others were played in unofficial conditions,” on-field captain Ricky Boebel said.
What happened next came as a complete surprise as the team battled for two deserving wins, even stunning Texas Tech on their home field. What already seemed like the perfect way to end a season became even better when the team learned that these two wins earned them a spot in a play-in game for the Division II playoffs.
After CC’s impressive performance in Texas, USA Rugby created a play-in game between Colorado College and University of California Irvine to decide who would represent the west in the DII playoffs. As if the team didn’t already have enough obstacles to overcome, USA Rugby added a stipulation to the game.
The game would only be played provided that Colorado College came up with the funding to travel to California. The team, however, persevered once again and through a major fundraising campaign was able to raise enough money from the school and alumni to play the game.
“The whole team was stoked to get a chance to play to get into the USA Rugby DII tournament. Because of our location, our new division, and lack of number the chance of postseason play seemed unrealistic, even a couple weeks before we left for California,” Boebel said.
The CC team with enough players to fill half the bench beat UC Irvine on Nov. 17, 2013 with a convincing score of 32-10. The team that thought their already successful season was going to end two weeks earlier was now going to the Division II Collegiate Rugby National Championships.
The team traveled to St. Louis to play the hosting school, St. Louis University, in the first round of the playoffs. In a game that was played in the toughest conditions of the year, CC was knocked out of the playoffs by a one-score differential, 10-17, officially ending their exciting and successful season.
“The strong group of upperclassmen really set the tone, taking CC Rugby to places we have never been. Hopefully this will be the jumping off point for the program for years to come. Full credit to the boys,” Boebel concluded.