By Liam Sample
The Plattsburgh men’s rugby team’s “miracle” run continued as they finished the regular season by winning the TNT Tournament at Memorial Field April 29. This was followed by the National Collegiate Rugby announcing the Cardinals will officially appear in the May Madness National Championship at the end of May in New Orleans.
The TNT Tournament is one of the climaxes of the rugby season, as the team does not get many opportunities to play at home. The tournament is sponsored by both the mens and womens team and was created as a memorial for Anthony (Tony) Santandrea, Trevor Green and Billy Erwin former players and alumni who passed away during 9/11.
“This was an amazing tournament.” captain Tyler Callahan said. “Energy was up and everybody was ready to ruck and roll.”
One of the unique factors of the tournament is the alumni of the program create a team to play against the competition.
“Plattsburgh TNT Rugby Tournament is like no other tournament,” junior inside center Kevin Graber said. “We got to spend time with alumni and learn the true meaning of what TNT is about. Going into the tournament, we were going to face some tough competition.”
The Cardinals first game was against a well known rival: the alumni team. Played with 15 players on both sides, the current team came around after a rough start to take down the alums 10-7.
This first game put on display the Cardinal’s defensive skill along with their grit.
Graber mentioned how despite this rocky start being in such a close game, it set the tone for the rest of the day.
Their next game was against Sienna’s B Team, as the college split their rugby program into two separate squads. Plattsburgh has matched up against Sienna multiple times this season, to poor results. They have only three losses this season and one of them have come against the Saints, which is also a Division I program.
This time was different for the Cardinals, as they made a statement by downing the B Team 29-19 to advance to the finals.
Plattsburgh had their hands full for the final game of the tournament, taking on Sienna’s A Team, which is the 10th ranked team in the nation. After a back and forth battle, regulation would not be enough with the game going into overtime.
For a moment in overtime, it felt Sienna would come on top and continue their season success against Plattsburgh. However, a rapid possession change led junior Noah Lederman, nicknamed “lighting” by the team, to put his speed on display to tally the winning score. After overtime, The Cardinals won 29-24 to claim the TNT Tournament and finish the regular season with a 22-3 record.
“The highlight of the tournament was getting revenge on Sienna,” said Graber. “Our team played with their hearts and left everything on the pitch. Sienna put up a great fight.”
Former president and current player Luke Ovadias mentioned that it was the first time the team had won the tournament in the past decade. It was a perfect regular season ending moment to a historic season for the team.
“An absolute thriller of a match going into OT and giving Sienna our complete best, this was the most competitive game I’ve played in my career,” Callahan said. “That game summed up the blood, sweat and tears we put into our season. It proved that when you have all the right pieces and players who have the will and grit as an edge, we will succeed, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The tournament also displayed the Plattsburgh women’s rugby team, with the alumni also forming their own team to compete.
“The tournament is always so much fun because it’s at our campus and it’s surrounded by so much rugby pride. People come together to play a sport that they really care about which gives the game so much more depth,” said alumni Maddy Nemac, who graduated last December. “The fact that it’s a tournament in honor of players who passed away too soon, it makes you embrace all the bumps and bruises just as much as the laughs and beers.”
Due to the uncertainty of getting the national bid, many of the seniors thought this would be their last time playing. Ovadias said it felt like the perfect ending to the season.
After facing some funding issues, it was officially announced this week through social media that Plattsburgh will be attending the National Championship May 28 to 30. While it was initially thought that they would be competing among the Men’s Small Colleges like other Division III schools, it was declared that the Cardinals will be playing in the Division I club bracket in New Orleans.
In their group for the championship will be Florida Atlantic University, Purdue University, Salisbury University, Sam Houston State University, University of Connecticut, Tulane University, and University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“This season was unlike any other, everybody just understood what we had to do to be successful and we pushed our limits to make sure we came out on top,” Callahan said.
“Good teams put in work to be successful, but championship teams do whatever it takes to be successful. Plattsburgh State rugby is the definition of a championship team.”