Illinois men’s rugby goes 2-2 at Ohio State

By Edwin Hsieh, Contributing writer

After taking fourth place in its tournament last weekend, the Illinois men’s rugby sevens team is preparing for its upcoming competition against Iowa.

Last weekend, the Illini went 2-2. The Illini beat Michigan State and Ohio State’s B Team and then lost to Wisconsin and Ohio State’s A-Team.

The short-handed rugby team came into the tournament hosted by Ohio State with five injured players and two other players unavailable due to personal matters.

With limited players available, the Illini still started the tournament with high energy and determination. Defense helped the team secure the first two wins of the tournament, beating Michigan State and The Ohio State B-team.

“It was nice to get back at Michigan State after losing to them in the championship tournament last season,” club president Rich Daniels said.

Illinois’ third game was against Wisconsin. Wisconsin won the first two kickoffs and scored right away. The Badgers set the tempo of the game early on, and the Illini just did not respond well.

Fatigue began to set in after the first two games, and it proved to be a factor in the team’s struggle against Wisconsin as the team simply couldn’t keep pace with the Badgers.

The number of injuried players, however, did open up the opportunity for the newer guys on the team to gain game experience. For many players, this was their first tournament in their college careers.

“I thought the newer guys played great this weekend,” senior Mario Lozano said. “A couple of mistakes, but better to make them now rather than in the championship.”

The Illini played in their last game against rival Ohio State’s A-Team.

Lozano had to exit due to a hip injury while running to score a try within the first couple minutes. The team played well but ended up losing.

The Illini were then forced to forfeit the third-place game because of injuries.

“The decision was very difficult,” Lozano said. “The main goal for us is to win the Big Tens, and this was just a seeding tournament.”

Captain Matt Ramsey, senior Brian Nicolls and Lozano held a meeting and made the decision, believing it’s best for the team in the long run.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup against Iowa, the Illini are looking to rest up and restore their energy and will get back two key seniors: Danny Lyons and Martin Latuf.

However, Lozano will not be playing because of his hip injury. He should be back in two weeks in time the Big Ten championships.

“I think overall the tournament went well; we finally got to play as a team and develop in-game chemistry as a team,” Lozano said. “Looking forward, we need to work harder on our defensive shape after two phases.”

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