GVSU rugby poised for big season

GVL/ Rane Martin
Mens Rugby VS Xavier University

Rane Martin

GVL/ Rane Martin Men’s Rugby VS Xavier University

Alex Eisen


Anything else would be a disappointment for the Grand Valley State men’s club rugby team.

Head coach John Mullett has lofty expectations, but is confident his team can build off the success it had last season to achieve even more this year.

“I have never in 18 years talked about how good my team is going to be,” Mullett said. “It’s stupid to suggest otherwise this year because everybody on the team knows what we got.”

Team captain Thomas Strandquist put it bluntly. “It is championship or bust.”

The Lakers finished with an 8-2 record last season and earned its first Mid-Atlantic regional appearance after winning the Great Lakes Conference Championship.

At regionals, GVSU came out fast, scoring on its first try, but Towson University seized momentum and went on to win convincingly to end the Lakers’ dream of a national championship in the Round of 16.

GVSU returns 12 of 15 starters along with a talented group of newcomers who have challenged for starting roster spots right away.

“We got probably 20 guys coming back that at different times last year played A-side ball,” Mullett said. “And we have freshmen that are going to push out some of our starters and start in their place this year. They’re that good, right out of gates.”

Having the depth to field two quality A-side teams is reason enough to believe the Lakers could eye another tournament appearance. However, with so many quality players, it’s hard to find roster spots for all of them.

Usually, having first-time players taking over starting positions leads to some tension among players, but Mullett maintains the players have acted with class, and his leaders have taken ownership to keep everyone focused on the end goal rather than individual goals.

Leaders Strandquist and Jared Preston, team president, can’t help but notice the talent they have around them. Both brought up the physicality of their forwards who pound away until the opposing team starts to wear down. Once that happens, they turn it over to their quick outside players to capitalize.

“It all comes down to fitness,” Strandquist said. “Especially later on in the playoffs it usually comes down to who is more fit.”

Having an abundance of players ready to contribute isn’t a burden, but a vital asset to have. Fatigue and replacing injured players are no longer as serious a concern.

“Anybody can score,” Preston said. “I’ve seen so many different people on our team score in so many clutch situations. It’s awesome.”

As the old adage goes, it’s better to have quality over quantity, but in this case it looks like GVSU is fortunate enough to have both.

The new season starts on the road against Saginaw Valley State on Sept. 12. GVSU had no problems getting past SVSU last year, beating the Cardinals handily at home, 34-0, and again on the road, 41-17. Road trips to Oakland and Ferris State follow before the home opener can take place on Oct. 3 against Oakland.