Rugby prepares for a hard-hitting season

Sarah Szigeti

Loyola’s rugby  team is undergoing many transitions — a promotion not only for the head coach, but for the team as well.

The athletics department recently announced that Sam Brock will be joining the Pack as a full-time coach as the team moves from club sport to an official Southern States Athletic Conference team.

This is not only good news for the men, but there are now hopes to add a women’s rugby team to the ranks as well.

Brock joined Loyola four years ago to coach the intramural rugby team and has completely turned the program around, according to some of the older members.

For proof, one needs to look no further than the score board. Four years ago, the team lost to Tulane 27-3. This past spring, they beat Tulane 54-8.

Corey Lesassier, business sophomore, said that Brock has helped them grow, not only as  athletes, but as a program as well.

“The more we grow, both school-wise and sports-wise, and the more games we win, the farther we’ll get and that will only bring us more attention, which is our ultimate goal,” Lesassier said.

Brock said that the most important key to success for their team is actively recruiting high school players.

Brock said he has been going to high school games in the area, bringing his players to those games and bringing the high school athletes to his practices. He said this is all part of an effort to make young athletes want to play rugby at Loyola, just as they might come to play basketball.

“I want to find them while they’re still mastering their skill. It’s easier to train them as rugby players that way. I look for athletic kids who maybe wanted to play ball in college, but for whatever reason their original sport didn’t work out, and that’s when I introduce them to rugby and show them that they can still play college ball,” Brock said.

Brock said recruitment has proven very successful in the past year alone. He welcomed six freshmen to the team, all of which he informally recruited.

Vincent Duhé, freshman history major, is one of those recruits.

He says Brock started coming to his games last year, often bringing his own players and inviting Duhé, ]to their practices. Now, he gets to wear the maroon and gold uniform.

“It feels good to be wanted like that, at least in some aspect of life. It’s cool to know someone wanted you to do something you already love,” Duhé said.

This is something Brock said he has been doing since he came to Loyola and that it is likely one of the biggest reasons he was brought into the department full-time.

Brock, while excited about what their winning record means for his team, said the change hasn’t affected him.

“My day-to-day hasn’t really changed much. I’m still coaching the guys like I did before. The only thing that’s really different now is there’s more paperwork,” Brock said.

Last year the team went all the way to the final game in the Sweet 16 round against Mount St. Mary College and lost by one point. Brock says that that is their biggest driving factor this year.

“There isn’t a practice or a game that goes by when we don’t think of that moment. Every day we’re running faster, throwing longer and blocking harder to make sure we go all the way this year,” Brock said.

Lesassier said that  moment is one that every member on the team carries with them.

“The game kind of ended with the ball in my hands, so it was rough, but it’s just extra motivation. We haven’t stopped  working since,” Lesassier said. “Even the guys that weren’t there for that Elite 8 loss, they still want us to get back there so we can avenge ourselves.”