Bethel rugby continues expansion with 7-on-7 team

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Since the debut of men’s rugby back in 2015, the team has continually pushed the limits to what they can do. In year one, they had a winning record, nearly beating a more experienced Notre Dame program. The also qualified for the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) tournament. In year two, they went through a change of head coach, but not only did they once again qualify for the NSCRO tournament, but they also went all the way and won the national championship. In year three, they moved from NSCRO up to Division II and barely missed the tournament due to their only season loss against Grand Valley State University. Needless to say, they’ve had quite a run so far. The expansion doesn’t seem to be stopping there, either. Senior wing Adam Trejo revealed to the Beacon back in November that the rugby team was looking to add another season of rugby in the spring and recently, the coaching staff shed some light on the addition of a rugby 7-on-7 team. What was the purpose behind lobbying for the 7-on-7 rugby team? “The biggest purpose for us as a team is that we need to grow our numbers,” said rugby head coach Gilbert Gadia. “There’s a huge influx of students in high school where that is what they want to do. They want to play in a school that promotes both the 15’s level in the fall and, in the spring, the 7’s program." Gadia said that the 7’s program will help ensure that the rugby team remains a viable option and brings in students. “There are students that want to come to this school, and they find out that we don’t have a two-season type of thing…they’re (more likely) to find another school,” said Gadia. Gadia also brought up the chance for the current roster to improve their skill level and get a leg up on playing professional rugby after college. 7’s rugby is becoming more recognized by the United States and was even an Olympic sport for the 2016 Summer Olympic games. But what makes 7-on-7 rugby different from 15’s?  “Obviously, 15’s (rugby) is 15 versus 15, with one referee (and) two assistant referees, or they call it AR’s, on the touch judge sidelines,” explained Gadia. Gadia explained that 15’s rugby tends to be slower paced than 7’s rugby, as well as includes some tactical differences. “Big boys can crash in, pass it out to the faster guys and slow the pace down,” said Gadia. “In 7’s, I think why it became an Olympic sport is…it’s fast-paced…a lot of it is skill, but I think more or less it’s mental…the tenacity of the player will show whether or not they have what they call grit...” Coach Gadia also noted the importance of fundamentals, such as footwork and passing, that the rugby players go over to prepare for the rigorous speed of the 7’s rugby game. Gadia said that he hopes the team will make the Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC’s), and that the team has already been invited to multiple tournaments hosted by other schools. Some notable rugby tournaments include one hosted by IU Bloomington, one by Notre Dame, and multiple around the Great Lakes and Carolinas area. "All of those are qualifiers, and I really want us to make it there," said Gadia. "(If) we do well and if we get invited (and) we win, that’d be fantastic.” Gadia added that there will be some players from the 15’s team who will not play in the spring 7’s team because they are either too busy, do not want to play or they are just built too big for 7’s rugby. In 7’s, the players must be quicker on their feet. The backs in rugby, which serve as a kind of wide receiver in the sport, will make the team. “The biggest thing with the rugby team is that we like to have fun,” Gadia said with a laugh. “It’s just like a family. There’s dysfunction too, and there are different individuals (on the team). Some are intellectual (and) some are here to strengthen their faith.” The season is currently under way, with practices already happening in the Wiekamp Center gyms. They are still trying to finalize some matches, but the Pilots will be prepared when their first match comes. Unfortunately for fans, there won’t be any tournament games on the Pilot’s home field this season. The season will last until June, depending if the Pilots qualify for CRC’s. (Photo Credit: Marc England II.)
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