Every spring, both the men and women rugby clubs lace up for the TnT Tournament in remembrance of fallen ruggers Tony Santandrea and Trevor Green, who died as Plattsburgh State students, and Billy Erwin, who was killed on 9/11.
“It’s all about remembering those guys and everyone that has unfortunately passed in 50 years of rugby at Plattsburgh,” said Kiel Kyer, captain.
Near three towering pine trees by the rugby pitch behind Sibley Hall, a plaque commemorates the fallen players. Money raised through the tournament goes to the Tony Santandrea Scholarship, which is awarded every year to an environmental studies student who shared Santandrea’s love for the Adirondacks and the outdoors.
The women start off at 10 a.m. Saturday against Clarkson University. One of the most anticipated matchups of the day is at 11:30 a.m. between the current PSUC men’s team and an alumni side — a motley crue of players from the seventies through last semester’s graduates.
“Come out with a W,” Kyer said about the team’s expectations for the tournament with a laugh. “Hang out with the alumni, build that family aspect and have a good time for a good cause.”
“It’s about bringing back past alumni,” said Phil Anderson, club treasurer. The senior has built friendships with many of the alumni who return every year and praises the tournament for bringing together over 50 years of rugby players.
Not only have current players and alumni built friendships, but a longstanding circle of giving has helped kept the club achieve funding. Former players have banded together to support the current club by fundraising for a new sled, team apparel and providing food after several matchups.
For recent graduates who were with Anderson when the team won a state championship and were ranked in the top five nationally, he feels like he has something to prove.
“Seeing the people that I used to play with on the other side of the bench makes me hungry to beat them,” Anderson said. “It makes me want to prove that my team as it is right now is better than the team we had in the past.”
Rugby is among few sports to be identical between men and women — same rules, same sized pitch, same equipment and the same respect and camaraderie between players and alumnae. For alumna Bridget Doherty, rugby is the way she still feels connected to Plattsburgh.
“We have such a tightly knit network of alumni from both the men’s and women’s teams,” Doherty said. “When you can cry, bleed and hit each other on the pitch and then get to know each other over a barbecue afterwards, you gain a sense of respect for other people that is unlike what you experience with any other sport.”
For Anderson and Kyer, the next time they suit up for TnT will be as alumni.
“It’s pretty bittersweet,” Anderson said. “You look at everything we’ve accomplished and seeing that whole history that we built up and now, stepping onto the other side of the field and being like, ‘that’s the past now’; It’s just bittersweet.”
Email Ken Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org