Illinois men’s rugby spring regular season ends at Iowa

By Peter Romanchuk

With the Big Ten Championships less than two weeks away, the men’s rugby team will have one final series of matches to determine its seeding.

Illinois rugby will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, on April 11 for its last regular season tournament before it hosts the Big Ten championships on April 18th at the Complex Fields. The field includes Illinois, Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Minnesota.

Though the Illini have earned their spot in the Big Ten Championships, the players on the team understand the importance of this weekend.

“The point system determines the seeds in the championship tournament,” said sophomore Rich Daniels. “If we can win the Iowa tournament, we’ll be the first seed and have the easiest ride to the championship.”

Regular season matchups also provide teams with an opportunity to assess and improve their game before postseason play. Daniels said Illinois’ past weekend at Michigan was a pivotal moment in the season.

“We learned last weekend that we have the talent, skill, and heart to be Big Ten champions,” Daniels said. “It’s going to come down to staying mentally focused and confident if we want to beat big-name teams like Michigan and Indiana.”

In addition to the time crunch, the Illini’s schedule could get complicated due to poor weather conditions forecasted for the next two weeks. However, sevens captain and senior John Huguelet is not overly concerned about the factors his team can’t control.

“Everyone is going to be subjected to the same conditions,” Huguelet said. “We’re not going to worry about it at all.”

Practices this week and next will focus on Illinois’ defense. Huguelet believes that having the right defensive posture and balance should help the offensive game develop.

“By having a balanced defensive, we can cause turnovers,” Huguelet said. “If we take advantage of those turnovers, our defense will feed into our transition offense.”

The rugby sevens team will look to build on it solid performance last weekend at a Big Ten invite in Michigan. Illinois beat Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan en route to the first-place match, when they fell short to Indiana. The Illini’s leading scorers were sophomore Matt Ramsey and junior Martin Giannetti.

Being that all of the games are played in a single day, rugby sevens tournaments are physically and mentally taxing. In order to maintain a strong and consistent performance on the pitch for all of their matches, players on the team recognize how crucial mental preparation is to have success.

“It can be a long day when you have to play 3-5 games,” Huguelet said, “Staying focused before and in between games will help us execute when we are out on the field.”

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