Men’s rugby still looking for first win

Kyle Samec

After moving up to Division 1-AA, and finally getting a new head coach, the men’s rugby team is ready for the season and has plans to show not only Ohio, but the nation, that they are a legitimate rugby program on the uprise.

The team didn’t play in the spring due to a violation of team policy.

They weren’t allowed to practice on Manchester field, but did so anyway and the ground at that time was wet and muddy. This made the soil extremely susceptible to damage.

The team was charged almost $600 in damage fees and was placed on probation for the spring semester.

For all the churning that has happened to them over the past few months, this team still has players on it who have beat some of the better programs in the country.

They beat Ohio State University during the spring 2014 season by a score of 42-10, and Notre Dame College once out of the two times they played them that season.

However, just like the women’s team, they have to manage differently than varsity rugby programs because they are a club sport.

Keegan Gillilan, a senior and team president, referenced all the team needs that were vital for a successful group.

“Any school with a great rugby program has a director of rugby,” Gillilan said. “And they have a system where the two programs, men and women, work together.”

After the director joined, Gillilan said playing tougher competition to help put the team on the map was the next big step.

“We tried our best to get our talent some experience because that is what we’ve always truly lacked, is the rugby experience,” Gillilan said.

The director of rugby organizes the team. This is vital, because before they had a director, the team was unorganized and didn’t have the same mindset as they have today.

The director happens to be the women’s head coach, Jeff Horton.

After the 2013 season, the team’s former head coach left for the same job at the University of Akron, so the Kent team went all of the 2014 season without a head coach and was run by team leaders, including Gillilan.

Though after acquiring a new head coach, the team has regained its confidence that was hurting after missing all of the spring games.

Stoney Brooks, a junior fly-half and assistant coach, said that the men are in the right state of mind now.

“With us being accepted into the higher division the mindsets of a lot of the guys have changed,” Brooks said. “A lot more commitment, a lot more perseverance to try and push themselves to do better so that we can compete and be organized to compete with this competition at the higher level.”

After the fall season of 2013, the rugby team was ranked number 12 in the nation in Division 2 and finished with a 5-2 overall record. One loss came in the regular season and one in the playoffs, and they made the semifinals of the playoffs.

These achievements are some of the things that new head coach Tim Brofman, a 2007 Kent State University Advertising Graduate and former Flashes rugby player, wants to regain for the program. And in his mind, it all starts with the mental approach.

“One of the things we’ve really been trying to do is up the rugby IQ,” Brofman said. “We are going to play hard rugby, yes, but we’re going to take advantage of all the rules, all the intricacies of what you do and play at a higher level of rugby.”

Coach Brofman mentioned that in the past, the Kent teams had been practicing what he called “smash-mouth rugby,” which is where you don’t use as many rugby techniques as much as you just try and run through guys and push the ball forward. He says that this will not work against the better opponents Kent will be facing in its new division.

“The problem with that is especially now as you go into Division 1, a lot of the teams that we’re playing have been established with guys who have been playing for three or four years. Every team has one of those big, tough guys,” he said.

Being different from those other teams by being students of the game will help the Flashes out tremendously Brofman said.

“We used to be more physical, now we’re trying to be more mental,” Brofman said. “We’re focused on what’s on the field and winning games because we’re in Division 1 now.”

The Golden Flashes opened up regular season play on Saturday, Sept. 12, at Western Michigan where they lost by a score of 41-5. Last Saturday the team showed much improvement against Miami University (OH) but ended up losing on a last-second try, 31-27.

The Flashes now have a bye week to prepare for their MAC rival, Bowling Green State University.

Kyle Samec is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].