As rain and gray skies hung over Northeast Ohio on Monday morning, the dreams of rugby season were dashed for the 113 student-athletes in the Saint Ignatius rugby program.
On Monday, USA Rugby suspended all practice and games until May 31, 2020, due to the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, Rugby Ohio canceled its spring rugby season.
Rugby is the first spring sport at Saint Ignatius to be canceled.
"As a coaching staff, we're saddened that we won't spend the season with them," said Head Coach Dan Arbeznik '00. "This is really heartbreaking for our kids, who put in so much work. It's particularly heartrending for our seniors. We've really enjoyed coaching this group. This team had a singular commitment to the task. It is a great leadership group."
The Wildcats' A-side squad ends the year with a 2-0 record. The Rugby Cats tallied a 24-15 upset win over the former No. 1 team in the nation, Gonzaga, and a 54-10 victory over Avon Lake. Goff Rugby Report placed the Wildcats at No. 5 in the country in its single school rankings.
The Wildcats were hoping to win a fourth straight Rugby Ohio title, and the sixth in school history. That quest will have to wait until next year.
After the heartbreaking news became known, Arbeznik sent a long and heartfelt email to the Wildcats. In it, Arbeznik stressed the importance of finding hope in this time of despair.
"It's hard to see any light in this time of darkness. Seemingly, all of our hard work and sacrifices were for nothing: long hours in the weight room, 7 a.m. skills sessions, Broncos, freezing temperatures, countless hours of practice. For our seniors, we can add three years of grinding against bigger/faster/stronger players ... waiting for their turn to add to the legacy of the jersey.
"Our sport teaches many lessons. Perhaps the greatest of which is that no thing and no person is perfect. Certain outcomes are beyond our control. The cheap shot. The missed call. The injury. It's not about what has happened to us on the pitch. What matters is how we respond to it. We need to focus on our response. Reach out to our teammates. Take a deep breath. Talk.
"Our process has been good and the resulting virtues endure. Humility. Creativity. Enjoyment. Support. Sooner or later, we all discover that fulfillment is not in the destination but rather in the journey. In the coming months, keep our circle tight and strong. Support each other. Be creative in how we train and interact in a limited environment. Enjoy this extraordinary pause and be mindful of the humility we all must wear in these trying times. Our journey together is not over. It just seems that the destination has changed."
Arbeznik made sure to stress that this is not the end.
Instead, this is a pause. Rugby will return eventually. And as for the team's seniors, their careers are not over.
"This is not the end of their careers with the team," Arbeznik said. "Once you're a member of the team, you're always a member of the team."