The Spring Hill College men’s rugby club captured the National Small College Rugby Organization South Cup championship last weekend in Marietta, Georgia.
The Badgers defeated Tennessee Tech, 48-19, on Saturday before winning the title over Eckerd, 27-15, on Sunday.
“Winning the South Cup this past weekend was an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Robert Vought, team captain and a junior on the squad. “We’re a close group of guys, but it’s trips like these that build the camaraderie and chemistry which contributes to our success.”
Hosted by Life University, the NSCRO South Cup was one of four regional playoff tournaments held across the country. Spring Hill College came into the tournament with an NSCRO national ranking of No. 12.
According to the NSCRO website, other regional championships were won by Susquehanna University, Loyola of Maryland, and Ladner University. SHC and the three other winners qualified for the Region Championship on Dec. 7-8 hosted by the Raleigh RFC. If SHC beats Loyola-Maryland on Dec. 7, it will advance to the NSCRO national title game.
According to the national organization’s website, there are more than 400 colleges with rugby clubs and teams in the NSCRO organization. The NSCRO will crown national champions in April, according to the website.
According to published reports, SHC’s men’s rugby team is in its 49th season. Spring Hill has also had a women’s team in years past.
SHC’s athletic department announced in 2018 that the men's and women's rugby teams be considered club sports programs and not NCAA sports teams going forward. Traditionally, club sports teams do not offer scholarships for participation. Thus, the rugby club has existed as a club sport with athletes who aren’t on athletic scholarship.
“At the end of my first year at Spring Hill College, the rugby program was told that we would no longer receive funding, insurance, and scholarships from the athletic department,” Vought said. “For any athletic team, this serves as a death sentence to the program. However, we stuck it out with the goal to prove to the school and to the rest of the country that we could become a powerhouse. The following year, we won our first conference championship. This year, we have won the title of the best rugby team in the south with a current record of 9-0.”
The team’s next stop on the way to the National Championship is the Mid-Atlantic Semi-Final. The team needs help funding their travel costs for their remaining 50th anniversary season. Their goal is to raise $7,000, and they currently have 19% of that goal. There are 15 days left to donate, and you can help out here.
In the win over Eckerd, Bab Barreio led SHC with two tries, while Ryan Schickel and S’christian Johnson each had one. In Saturday’s game, Barreio and Chris Zelenka had two tries apiece, while Oliver Kane, Vought and Mason Mitchell each had one.
SHC’s entire rugby roster includes: freshman Tim Guest, junior Nate Smith, freshman Danny Connors, senior Oliver Kane, senior Keegan Perkins, senior Alec Savoy, junior Rob Vought, junior Bam Barreiro, senior Christian Gilbert, freshman William Newell, sophomore Anthony Popalardo, freshman Ryan Schickel, freshman Mike Reilly, senior Mason Mitchell, junior Jack Chellberg, sophomore Josh Colby, junior S’Christian Johnson, freshman Payton Mosley, freshman Jack Besh, junior Chris Zelenka, sophomore Ben Cazayoux and freshman Jack Kilroe.
The head coach is Phil Dembowski, and he is assisted by Joe Ferro. The team advisor is Angie Kazek, and the manager is Matthew Dietsch.