The Wildcats saw their season last spring come to an abrupt end due to the covid-19 outbreak. The Cats were just two games into the 2020 season, which featured wins against the number one team in the Nation, Gonzaga, and Avon Lake. Since that last win on March 8, 2020, it has been 50 weeks since the Wildcats took to the pitch. They will open their season this weekend against the Charlotte Tigers in Morgantown, WV.
Head Rugby Coach Dan Arbeznik '00 heads into his 15th season with five state championships under his belt and is excited for the start of the regular season. However, the Class of 2020 is still fresh on his mind. "I feel so bad that those guys didn't experience the hard work paying off," says Arbeznik. "Those guys put so much work in, and the season is just a part of the process; it was unfortunate they could not play last season."
Senior Danny Krebs is a chief leader for the upcoming season and was a member of the varsity team that saw its season shut down due to the pandemic. "We lost a year," says Krebs. "this was difficult for everyone, especially the younger guys on our development team because they have not experienced a season yet."
"It's great to be back," notes senior Fielding Carlson. "We have not played in a year. I'm excited to start the season. Carlson is a University of Saint Bonaventure commit and is a chief leader for the regular season.
"When the season ended last year, I sent an email about the process and us sticking to that process," says Arbeznik. "In life, sometimes you're going to get your shot, sometimes you're going sit and wait, but the process is going to stay the same."
After 50 weeks of not taking the pitch, the Wildcats saw the opportunity to practice on Kyle and McLaughlin Fields. "First and foremost, it was just gratitude hitting the field," says senior Gavin Moore. "Everything that coach Arbeznik has done to help organize us to get back to the practice field, we're truly excited." Moore is a Mount Saint Mary's University commit and is a chief leader for the regular season.
"You can see and feel the excitement being back on the practice field," says senior Christopher Speelman. "Everyone is hustling and putting work in for the start of the season. Speelman is a Marian University commit and a chief leader for the regular season.
"It was great and almost brought you to tears," explains Arbeznik. "We are grateful to be back on the field together again."
In one of Kyle and McLaughlin Fields' first practices, coach Arbeznik mentioned the importance of watching rugby to his players, understanding the sport's concept, and bringing that awareness out onto the upcoming season pitch.
"We're not a mainstream sport in America," says Arbeznik. "There are certain aspects of the game the guys may not understand, and we have to make a deliberate effort to expose ourselves to the game."
Krebs mentioned the importance of staying ready for his senior season watching rugby during the down period of the pandemic. "I was watching a lot of rugby and lifting in the weight room to stay in shape for this season," says Krebs.
All four squads for the Wildcats will hit the road to open the regular season, as they will take on the Charlotte Tigers at Mylan Park in Morgantown, WV.
"The bus trips are always fun," says Moore. "We're going to be playing music, having fun, and getting excited about the game. As soon as we get there, it'll become a business trip."
"The travel is the best part," says Arbeznik. "Playing together this fantastic, and so much of it is about the literal journey."
The Rugby Cats have a long-running tradition of a retreat to Camp Christopher before the start of a season. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the retreat could not be made by the Cats.
"The guys miss not being able to go to Camp Christopher," says Arbeznik. "The players like to just be around each other; that is what helps this team bond so well."
The varsity A team will open the season at 1 p.m. from Mylan Park on Saturday. "We have to stay physical," says Speelman. "We have to get the ball out wide and keep the pressure on the Tigers."
"We have to play whistle to whistle," says Moore. "They are a great team, but we have to play our game, and I think if we do that, we will be successful."
"This will be the first time we have ever played Charlotte," explains Arbeznik. "The Tigers were ranked number one in the country last season before covid; they are well-coached and very physical; this will be a great test for our guys."
All four squads' schedules can be found here. Of course, with covid-19, the schedule is subject to change throughout the season. The Wildcats currently will have their home opener on March 20 from Wasmer Field; the SIBN will have live coverage of the home matches for the Rugby Cats.
"The goal number one is to have a 2021 season," explains Arbeznik. "Goal number two is to stay healthy and have our guys have a positive experience this season."