AIC men’s rugby team approaches spring season

Alex Hoi

Tommy Clark, Staff Writer

After placing third in the conference for the fall season for 15s, AIC men’s rugby team is approaching the spring season. Last spring the Yellow Jackets had a historical run, beating one of the top programs in the country during the Saratoga qualifying tournament to seal their ticket to Nationals in Tucson, Arizona.

In Tucson, the Yellow Jackets made history for the program when they went two and one in pool play, clinching a spot in the quarter finals for the second day. The men went on to beat Arizona University in the quarter finals, and then defeated Davenport in the semifinals. Through the whole tournament, the Yellow Jackets were considered underdogs.

In the final, AIC fell short to Lindenwood University, a very successful program that has won a number of championships since 2014. The Yellow Jackets, the “underdogs,” captured second place in the nation for D1A rugby.

Last spring, the Yellow Jackets made a statement, and showed that AIC can compete with the highest level of colligate rugby. They were labeled underdogs from the start of the tournament because few expected that they would make it out of pool play.

As a result, the Yellow Jackets have had a chip on their shoulder this fall season, and have had something to prove from the start. AIC has lost a lot of players from last spring, and the underdog title remains on them, giving them an even bigger chip on their shoulders. The squad that received second in the nation last spring is not the same squad that will take the field this spring.

That does not mean the Yellow Jackets will have a downfall season. New additions to the spring team, including Royaal Jones, who was not eligible to play last spring, are finally on board for the 7s season. His speed and intelligence on the field are going to be a huge part of the team’s success.

Jones commented on the underdog status of the Yellow Jackets. “Being an underdog is always good in my eyes,” Jones said. “The team you play against is either going to take you lightly or bring the heat a hundred percent. And most of the time they take you lightly, which gives you the upper hand. I am excited to be back and in the mix with the boys again.”

This spring there is a lot to play for, and this team is fired up to do so. At the same time, there are still big gaps to fill and a long season ahead if the boys want to remain on top for 7s. Tommy Clark is another returning player who made the dream team last spring as well.

Clark commented on the Yellow Jackets’ success. “Last year for this squad it was great,” Clark said, “but there’s still a lot to be done. The task is in front of us: attitudes need to change, as in egos. Need to have the mentality of starting from scratch, as we are in last place and working to the top once again. Sevens takes a lot of work and consistency day in and day out. Not just your work on field, but nutrition is big too. I feel if we come in with the mentality of being the underdogs once again and not being that team that finished second in the nation last year, we will have a fun season.”

Clark is determined and looking forward to finishing his senior season with a bang.

Lui Sitama, who is back on board as well, is in great shape this season. Sitama played in Nationals last year, but was struggling from a couple of injuries, and from not being in his full peak form. “This spring semester I feel like I am fitter than before,” Sitama said. “It felt good to play fifteens and have a go with the boys. I feel I am better prepared this time.”

Sitama preached about being fit, and he shows why it’s important on the field. The Yellow Jackets are known to encounter a lot of adversity. But as title underdogs, they know how to face and overcome it. Look out for your Yellow Jackets ruggers this spring semester!