GVSU rugby battles to 1-1 record in regional

Mark Washburn

Twelve hours in the car. That’s how long it took for the No. 7 Grand Valley State men’s rugby club to travel to Harrisonburg, Va. for the Division II Mid-Atlantic regional.

The result wasn’t entirely ideal, but the Lakers made sure the trip was worthwhile.

GVSU (9-1) won the Great Lakes Conference a week ago and qualified for the Mid-Atlantic regional for the first time in program history. On Saturday, GVSU took on No. 5 Towson University (Md.) in its first match of regional play. The Lakers lost 47-31.

“We really weren’t moving the ball effectively in space,” said 17th-year coach John Mullett. “We made some silly mistakes: dropping passes and missing tackles.”

GVSU started the game strong, scoring a try and conversion within the first five minutes to take a 7-0 lead.

From there, Towson took over.

“We came out firing, guns a-blazin’,” said GVSU senior flanker Pat Hart. “We were ready to play but they are a big, senior-led team.

“We became tired and they battled back.”

Towson took a commanding 34-14 lead to halftime, but the Lakers weren’t done fighting.

GVSU was able to swing the momentum and score the first 10 points of the second half to cut the Towson lead to 10, 34-24. After that, Towson turned the tide and, with the help of a few penalties, finished the 80 minutes with a 47-31 win. GVSU scored six tries in the match.

Despite the loss, GVSU junior Thomas Strandquist saw the fight his team played with.

“We had no quit, and gave them good competition for 80 minutes,” Strandquist said.

The biggest part for Stranquist was the team’s resolve.

“They were bigger, stronger, and hit harder,” he said. “It’s all about how we react and we saw how well we reacted.

“That goes a long way.”

GVSU played in a consolation game against Rowan College (N.J.) on Sunday, and bounced back with a 45-39 win.

GVSU scored three tries within the first 15 minutes of the game to take an early 15-0 lead. From there, the match was back and forth, with the Lakers taking a 25-17 lead

“We settled down and played with more structure,” Mullett said. “We were able to spin the ball out wide and have the forwards hit the hole and punch up the field much better.”

Junior inside center Dylan Bergbower was a force for GVSU in the victory, recording two tries and two assisted tries.

“(Bergbower) was able to take advantage of every opportunity,” Hart said. “He was able to take down guys and just kept on running.”

Looking toward the future, there is a lot of hope for GVSU after the Mid-Atlantic regional, especially since there were seven starting freshman against Rowan.

“We got a taste of tough competition,” Hart said. “We know that we can compete with the bigger schools.”