The Fairfield rugby team won the Tri-State Conference Championship this past Sunday, defeating Vassar College 50-14.
The Red Ruggers took the lead early in the game and never looked back. The win was the sweetest for the seniors on the team, as they had come close to winning the championship the past three years before eventually getting knocked out.
Senior Alex Cucchi, one of the captains on the team, echoed that sentiment after the game.
“For me, being a senior, we’ve been really close the past four years, so to finally get it means a lot, not just because of the past but because we’ve really worked our butts off this year,” he said. “We’ve really put in the work and it clearly paid off, so I’m just really proud of everybody for putting in the work and you get to keep playing, which is great.”
The Red Ruggers’ work ethic was repeatedly referenced after the game, as it is considered one of the main reasons the team won.
Senior Patrick Kueny, another team captain, was especially proud of how hard the team worked this year.
“[The team’s work ethic] was through the roof. This is the hardest our team has worked since I’ve been here,” Kueny said. “We’re waking up at 5:30 in the morning [for training] and then practicing the same afternoon. It paid off, this is the best season we’ve had, the best record we’ve had, and the best team that I’ve gotten to be a part of.”
The team’s new head coach, Marc Downes, deserves a lot of the credit for the team’s success. He came in with a new system in mind: to focus on hard training including CrossFit in each workout session and dieting, putting the team on a gluten-free diet.
“We changed a lot, we put a new structure in place,” Downes said. “We’ve got a great structure playing out on the field, but the most important part is that we put fitness in. Kids are working out three to four times a week, and that’s just making a big difference. Fitness is key.”
Fitness is key. This one phrase may be enough to sum up the entire season, as the team dominated the second half of most of their games, while their opposition looked winded.
“I think that’s the reason that we kind of run teams down in the second half; they can’t keep up anymore,” Cucchi said.
Senior Tom McNeely was very pleased with the outcome.
“I’m extremely proud of everyone on the team. They worked hard all season and it paid off,” he said.
The Rev. Michael Doody, S.J., is the Red Ruggers’ moderator and he couldn’t be prouder of the team.
“The Red Ruggers are the fittest team in the Northeast,” Doody said. “They earned today.”
He continued in his praise of the team, saying that they are “very sportsmanlike” and that they “never let [him] down. It’s a privilege to be their moderator.”
The Red Ruggers will participate in a play-in game next week against either the University of Notre Dame or Rowan University. The winner of that game earns a place in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, and the chance to advance even further.