By Adam Bushell
This past Saturday marked the end of the Trojans’ 2016 season with a loss at UC Davis in the first round of the D1AA National Championship. UC Davis are the current holders of the championship title and fielded a thrillingly competitive side to go up against USC. The Trojans showed sparks of being able to compete with last season’s best, and perhaps if the side had been at their best their fate may have been different. But it was not their day, and USC’s first visit to Nationals in recent memory was cut short. UCD outran, outplayed, and outcompeted the Trojans and the Aggies’ victory was well deserved.
Losing a tough fight after a long season will always be disappointing; any team with competitive spirit can attest to this. But the Trojans must not lament over their losses. Instead, the past season’s strides must be put into perspective. The team turned two wins and four losses in 2015 into five wins and one loss in the 2016 regular season, going on to win in the semi-finals of the GCCIR playoffs and losing the finals to CSU Long Beach by two points in the last minute of extra time, inevitably earning a spot in the first round of Nationals. This drastic turn around in performance in the span of one year is a major victory in itself. It is the efforts of the entire club, the coaching staff, the medical staff, and the players that must be commended for their achievements this year. In December, as pre-season came to a close and the Sevens players rejoined the Fifteens in training, it became apparent the level of expectations the club had for the upcoming season. It would require focus, tenacity, and drive to achieve the goal of reaching nationals and competing with the best in the division. The Trojan’s displayed just that. The desire to perform has been at a level unseen in years, and now USC Rugby has a season to show for it.
(W) USC 38-10 UC Irvine
(L) USC 17-24 CSU Long Beach
(W) USC 30-18 USD
(W) USC 31-10 CSU Fullerton
(W) USC 36-24 SBCC
(W) USC 32-31 GCU
Semi-Finals (W) USC 17-12 GCU
Finals (L) USC 36-38 CSU Long Beach
First Round (L) USC 12-29 UC Davis
The momentum, however, must not stop here. The hard work of key graduating players cannot go to waste. There are two components necessary in USC Rugby’s quest to compete with the best in the nation.
Firstly, the club must continue to reach for bigger and better things and maintain the drive necessary to do so. If the progress made in the span of one season can be replicated in seasons to follow, success will inevitably come. Beyond the skills learned and the strategies implemented, this season’s efforts have established a culture; a culture critical in maintaining winning values long after its current players have left the side.
Secondly, the team must receive the necessary attention from those with power and resources to have an equal opportunity as the competition at hand. As a competitive club sport in a highly renowned university, one would expect the university itself to be the foundation of such support, but as of late this has not been the case. This past month, team was forced to play a semi-final home game at a middle school thirty minutes away, despite a perfectly acceptable field on campus being vacant but that the team was barred from playing on. On top of this, the funding received bi-annually from the university is at a bare minimum relative to other competitive sides in the division. A rugby team needs equipment, field space, a coaching staff, a medical staff, transportation, and other costly components. Fundraising can only achieve so much.
I do concede that the level of competition over the past decade has not been where it has needed to be in order to earn the heightened attention from the university. In addition, establishing a competitive reputation for a team takes time and consistent results. However, with the performance displayed this past year, the club’s position within the university’s recreational sport department must be revised. There must be greater representation for the club to achieve their goals and bureaucratic lag cannot stand in the way of the team’s success.
The past season has established what will hopefully be a bright future for USC Rugby. Refinements for next season will begin almost immediately with the election of a new student E-Board this coming Thursday.
We say thank you to our graduating players:
Joseph Krassenstein (Center) Jonny So (President, Lock) Luis Lopez (Prop)
Nick Banks (Vice President, Prop) Jeff Stratford (Prop)
We would also like to thank those who generously contributed to all our fundraising campaigns over the past year and encourage you to stay connected via our Facebook page. This season would not have been possible without you.