A slight, misty chill blew across the back fields at the Anteater Recreation Center as the UC Irvine men’s rugby team anxiously jogged onto the field for an evening practice on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Entering what would go on to be an excruciating team practice, the Anteaters were flawless, showing why they have gone undefeated in two games early in the season, winning against Pepperdine and UC San Diego with scores of 50-0 and 70-7, respectively.
Nonetheless some challenging teams wait on the horizon as they continue their season, including UCLA.
Even with the two previous blowout victories, Head Coach Dan Cossettini continues to challenge his players, motivating them, training them harder, and taking it day by day in order to be prepared when the challenges resurface as the season goes by.
‘UCLA should be a huge match-up,’ Cossettini said. ‘They’re an established program, so that’s going to be a good test to find out where we stand as far as first division teams go.’
Even though the season is still young, it is hard not to think about all the potential UCI’s young squad has and how it will only get better as its players gain more experience.
Freshman Nick Surdyka is a perfect example of the young learning new tricks and developing their athleticism while having a good time.
‘Coming into a club that’s winning is nice,’ Surdyka said. ‘We just have to do our best. I hope we win. It’s fun to win.’
The rugby team now has 55 players enrolled in its program and is always looking for more students interested in signing up for one of the most physical sports UCI has to offer.
Cossettini has made it clear that there is always room for improvement and development and all male students interested in rugby should not hesitate to come in and train with a controlled team.
‘We’re a bit more organized than the past two teams that we’ve beaten,’ Cossettni said. ‘Everybody plays. We welcome players all year round. We’re recruiting all the time. Anybody, with or without experience, is welcome.’
Darren Williams, one of the team’s star players, agrees with the coach’s philosophy regarding the purpose and hard work needed to finish atop the standings.
‘I think what keeps us confident is [that] we know that we’re an upper-Division II team but the teams we are playing are Division I,’ Williams said. ‘So that’s the goal we are working for. That’s where we want to go. If we can beat [UCLA], then we know that we belong there.’
Each and every single practice kicks off with the usual 20-minute activities such as leg squats, other flexibility-related exercises and an organized running and passing routine. With short, quick passes and swift cuts during practice, the Anteaters take their rugby very seriously, always showing the energy and desire to be out on the field for the love of the game.
The players work hard and play harder to assure fans in Irvine that rugby is the next best thing next to football, maybe even better. Although Irvine lacks a football team, rugby brings the same, if not a greater, intensity and excitement, if only given the opportunity.
With players such as team captain Mike Sueoka, playing the position of fly half/center and former Rookie Forward of the Year Eddie Arevalo, the rugby team plans to make serious noise throughout this year’s season.
The UCLA Bruins come into town on Friday, Nov. 17 at the ARC, in what should turn out to be a huge game and the opportunity for a major upset. Following this match, Long Beach State plays Irvine in a Southern California rivalry that is sure to spark some tensions.
The rugby team practices at the ARC every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.