Parsa Lotfi, Photo Editor

At the turn of the New Year, the University of Rochester club rugby team, better known as the Uglies, are sitting pretty as NSCRO New York State Champions of 2014. The club, of which I am a member, is coming off a triumphant season marked by a third place finish in the North East Regionals and taking the 17th spot in the country.

The Uglies truly have hit a wild vein of fine form, breezing through two undefeated regular seasons with relative ease. This momentum really has helped give the team solid ground upon which to flourish.

Under the guidance of now former captain Will Retz, the Uglies overcame quite a year in 2014. They kicked off the season with a tight match against local rivals Rochester Institute of Technology, and just scraped through with a last minute penalty kick to save the game, forcing the team to rise above this rather uncharacteristically rusty start.

We whipped ourselves back into shape and ploughed through the remaining teams: Canisius, University of Buffalo, Alfred State and St. John Fisher College with devastating command.

Through gritty and persistent performances, the Uglies pushed on to conquer the State title, culminating in an emphatic victory over SUNY Plattsburgh, 46–12.

Dreams of reaching Nationals may have been dashed by New England College in the first round of Regionals, but that single defeat did little to tarnish the elation of a season well spent.

Key performances across the panel, as well as leading individual efforts from players such as Kevin Haddad, LeRon White and Will Retz himself, resulted in a total of 26 tries, all of which were seductively orchestrated by our very own #10 and “Player of the League,” Zachary Mietus.

A showcase of technique, speed and concentrated aggression is what was expected from this team, and they rarely failed to deliver.

Coming down from this high, the winds of change have rolled through and now the club faces an internally turbulent spring.

“It’s an odd feeling having to hand over the reigns…there’s a lot of satisfaction in leading a winning team,” Will remarked while reflecting on his time as Captain. Zachary Mietus, Matt Catarino, Mackie Gage and Sam Gullotti, and Will  will be moving on this year.

On one hand, we will lose the guidance and ability of our more experienced teammates. On the other, the door has been opened for younger players to step up and make their mark.

When asked what he saw for the future of the club, Will put it sincerely: “Rugby has taught me about brotherhood; about sticking up for your teammates and putting in the work for those counting on you…The team has been such a big part of my time at UR and I see a lot of potential in the younger guys. We’ve progressed year after year, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.”

As the old guys bow out, it is time for others to take the stage. With our eyes set on reaching nationals next semester, the only way to go is onwards and upwards.

Despite the challenge, there’s a calm, collected, confidence brewing within the team–a charming swagger of sorts.

On the verge of another thrilling season, training has already begun, laying the groundwork for blood, sweat and maybe a few tears along the way to victory.

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