Keene State Rugby team has made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with a wide range of players from eager first-years to more seasoned senior players.
On Saturday Nov. 3, Keene beat Bates College 64-29 and then faced off Sienna College the following day, becoming victorious with a final of 47-43 and winning the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) Challenge Cup Championship.
Coach John Johannesen said that, “After losing 12 seniors, it was a very different vibe on the field, players had to really step up and take initiative and become leaders.”
“The seniors that I have now I have had since they were freshman, so they haven’t had as much playing time in their earlier years as they do now, but they really stepped up and showed me that they can play this game and they can win,” said Johannesen.
Senior and captain Avery Putnam said that the team is doing well and the underclassman, “are super talented.”
“We are graduating a lot of seniors this year so they really had to learn the game quick,” Putnam said.
According to Putnam, the most difficult thing for this team has been finding a time for everyone to practice.
“Getting everyone to practice is kind of hard, just with class schedules and all that,” said Putnam.
Coach Johannesen agreed with Putnam and said, “We train pretty much every day of the week Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and thats been an issue for us this season because of class schedules. So we haven’t had the whole team together a lot. So before, the seasons were changing and it was getting darker outside, we were practicing at 6 a.m. two days a week to get the whole team together.”
As far as training on their own, Johannesen said, “They should be running and going to the gym because rugby is a very cardio based game so when they can’t make training that day they have to keep up with physical activity.”
When asked about the playoffs, Johannesen said that they were: “Really excited, we got really close this year and we are thrilled to play a few more weeks and see how far we can go,” said Putnam.
Before their busy, match-filled weekend, Putnam said their training has been relentless.
“We are just having a really hard training week to prepare for the post season,” said Putnam.
According to Coach John, the numbers on the team aren’t where they should be, so making the playoffs and doing so well was a testament to the team.
“In the last three years, we have had very heavy senior classes so the normal numbers the last few years were 55 to 60 players and now I am down to 40 on paper but about 30 showing up regularly,” said Coach John.
The Keene Rugby team is making strides in the playoffs and is hurdling toward the championship cup.
Keene State Rugby earned a spot in the East Coast Qualifier hosted by UMass Dartmouth on Saturday, Nov. 10. The winner of that match will continue on to the Region Championship.
Cailla Prisco can be reached