By Collin Bolebruch
Plattsburgh rugby is strong on tradition, and every year, Cardinal ruggers current and former circle the TnT Rugby Tournament on their calendars. TnT brings together classes of rugby players, memorializing deceased Cardinals ruggers, including the namesakes of the tournament Tony Santandrea and Trevor Green. This year’s tournament, held April 22, was the 25th the clubs have held.
Proceeds, coming from team entry fees, raffles and other donations, will go toward the Tony Santandrea Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Plattsburgh environmental studies student. It was a successful day for fundraising and bonding between generations of ruggers.
“To me, it really shows the family aspect of the organization. Once a rugger, always a rugger,” men’s rugger Michael Barbagallo said. “Look at the turnout. It’s been a great experience, my home tournament.”
Alumnae Katie O’Reilly watches her teammates attempt a lineout.
The tournament was the result of hard work throughout the season by both teams. Hosting the tournament was a special moment and a source of pride.
“We do this for two guys who passed away in past years. It’s sad, but it’s why we do it,” men’s rugger Noah Lederman said. “It means a lot to the parents, the fans and especially the guys on the team.”
Men’s and women’s rugby played in simultaneous tournaments on adjacent fields behind Memorial Hall. The men’s club hosted the Cardinals alumni squad, Hamilton College, Paul Smith’s College and Canisius College. The women faced a field including the alumni team, SUNY Potsdam, Paul Smith’s College and Hamilton College. The alumni team came out on top on both the men’s and women’s sides.
The men’s team played the alumni team twice during the day and lost to the former ruggers in the championship game. The final game was intense, but the former ruggers came out with bragging rights. The games were in good fun, and in the end, the squads appreciated the time they spent together.
Dakota Finley looks up to her teammates after scoring a try.
“It’s a memorial tournament. It’s keeping the memory of the culture of rugby and the values we have here in Plattsburgh,” men’s alumnus Luke Ovadias said. “It’s just family in the end of the day.”
The women’s team finished the day in second place. It started the day playing the alumni squad at 10 a.m., and lost 0-5. It got its first win of the day at noon, when it beat Hamilton 22-5.
During the match against Hamilton, Plattsburgh rookie Olivia Doud scored her first career try. She’d never played rugby before this season, saying her decision to join the team was the best she’s ever made. The moment signified her hard work paying off. Doud scored another before the day was over.
Kaylee Burke celebrates as teammate Natasha Sheffer scores a try.
“That’s the first time that my whole team was there playing at the same time, since we’ve only taken smaller groups to other tournaments,” Doud said. “It was super fun to have the whole team there to witness it and having the support of everyone around me. Obviously, there’s a lot of pride that comes with scoring.”
Head Coach Jake Mainville said Doud’s try was his favorite moment from the day.
Alumnus Matt Smith reaches across the try line in an attempt to score.
“She came in not knowing anything about rugby in late January. Didn’t know the names of the positions, didn’t know where she was supposed to stand,” Mainville said. “It was just a perfectly executed try. It’s textbook. Exactly what you’d want it to look like.”
The teams were seeded at 1:30 p.m., pitting Plattsburgh against Paul Smith’s, with the winner advancing to the final round.
Cardinal rugger Robbie Morrow stretches out to catch the ball.
Plattsburgh took down Paul Smith’s 20-0 at 2:30 p.m., paving the way for a championship appearance. The women’s team faced the alumni squad in the final at 4 p.m., losing 5-10. Despite the result, it was still a good day for Cardinals.
“This one is probably the most special one that I’ve played in, especially because it’s my last one as a student,” women’s rugger Shannon Tracy said. “It means a lot. It was a really fun day and I’m really glad everything worked out.”
Robbie Morrow slides to secure a try in the try zone through contact.
Tracy credited Mainville for essentially teaching the team how to play rugby. Mainville said he’s proud of the direction of the team and pleased with what it has accomplished this year.
“It was fantastic to see it all pay off. The girls out there, the things that we’ve been working on all season came together,” Mainville said. “That was Plattsburgh rugby like I’ve never seen it before.”
Though the competition was fierce, the day served as a team bonding experience, bringing the rugby family together. Former Cardinal rugger Sky Fenton returned to the pitch to play with the alumni squad. She’s encouraged by the growth of the club, especially the new rookie class, recalling a time when there were only six players. Fenton was happy to see how big TnT had become for the women’s team.
“The last TnT I’ve gone to, or the last few, we had only one or two teams that we were playing,” Fenton said. “It’s just great to see that we had five teams this year and maybe we can have even more.”