At least one Kent State men’s team is going to the Final Four.
The Kent State men’s club rugby team has advanced to the Midwest Final Four on Nov. 8 in Elkhart, Ind., where they will face Wisconsin. The winner of that game will move on to the national title game in April.
The Flashes defeated Michigan State 11-8 Saturday and Pittsburgh 30-22 in overtime Sunday in the Sweet 16.
“I feel we can’t be beat,” coach Adam Rapp said, grinning about the team’s wins.
The Flashes faced many obstacles over the weekend on the road to becoming victorious.
Rapp said while the team was warming up before the game Saturday, Michigan State provided Kent State with the best motivation ever. Michigan State asked the Flashes where Kent was, asking if it was in Chicago.
“We felt totally disrespected,” senior KC Gardella said. “We wanted to show them who Kent State rugby is.”
Rapp said the team was very motivated to beat them since the Flashes didn’t receive the respect they felt they deserved.
“They gave us a reason to put our team on the map,” Bryan Bowen said.
Kent State beat Michigan State by kicking a penalty with seconds left in the game.
When the Flashes got the penalty call, they were 10 meters away from scoring and Rapp knew the game was going to end in a Kent State victory.
“Oh my God, we’re going to win this,” he said.
Senior Corey Williams contributed six points and the winning penalty kick. He said his winning kick wasn’t anything special.
“It’s my job to hit those kicks,” he said.
Going into Sunday’s game, Pittsburgh was the undefeated No. 1 seed. When Kent State played Pittsburgh during the regular season, Rapp played the rookies during that game.
He said Pittsburgh thought they were going to win Sunday. Little did Pittsburgh know, the starting players were veterans this time.
“We were beating them on everything,” Rapp said. “We got overconfident and got lazy.”
Kent State had an early lead in the game, but went into a 10-minute overtime.
“Once momentum shifts, it’s tough to shift back,” he said.
In overtime, Kent State scored 11 points to seal a victory.
“We took it to them,” Rapp said.
The Kent State men’s club rugby team last made it to the Midwest Final Four back in 1986. The team faced Wisconsin, and lost.
“We need to do it for the old boys,” senior Tommy Krecic said in reference to the alumni.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can beat Wisconsin,” Rapp said.
Rapp said the team is going to play better and even harder against Wisconsin.
“These guys are weird, the bigger the games and the more pressure, the harder they play,” Rapp said.
The rugby team has never made it past the Final Four. The team that will win is the team that makes the fewest mistakes, Rapp said.
“One mistake and you’re screwed,” he said.
Freshman Keith Yost is proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“We fight hard and don’t quit,” he said. “We are hurt and bleeding, but we play until the game’s over.”
“You have to be a good team to get this far,” Rapp said.
Contact student recreation and wellness reporter Melissa Sidebotham at [email protected]