Three months ago, Rugby returned to Saint Ignatius as all four squads traveled to Morganstown, West Virginia, to play the Charlotte Tigers. It was an eye-opening match for the Varsity A and Varsity B Wildcats as they fell 7-49 and 0-34 respectively on March 6. Since then, it has been business as usual for Head Rugby Coach Dan Arbeznik’s ’00 Wildcats. The Varsity A and Varsity B side will compete for a State Championship on Saturday, Fortress Obetz in Columbus.
The Varsity B-side for the Cats will take on the St. Edward Eagles at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday for a State Championship. Although the B-side fell to the Eagles earlier this season to a final of 5-14 on March 31, this was the Wildcats’ last loss of the season and will now rematch against these Eagles for a State Title. “We’re not that far away from being done,” explains senior Shaun Domanick. “The St. Edward game is the final game, we lost to them in the middle of the season, but we are a lot more prepared.”
To end the regular season, the B-side took on Gonzaga from Morganstown. The Wildcats came away with a slim 22-19 victory against one of the top teams in the country. “When we won against Gonzaga, that is when the B-side clicked together and worked as a team,” Domanick says. “With coach (Connor) Fitzpatrick ’94 and coach (Brian) White ’92 have been phenomenal with their pump up speeches this season.”
The Varsity B-side defeated Archbishop Moeller in the State Semifinal last weekend to advance to the State Championship with a score of 34-0. They will take the pitch at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday against St. Edward. “The intensity and the feeling around the field knowing that we’re in the State Finals feels great,” Domanick explains. “We can’t wait.”
The Varsity A-side will play for a State Championship against Archbishop Moeller at 6:30 p.m. This will be a rematch from the March 27 match where the Wildcats defeated the Crusaders 34-26 on the road. Since the early-season losses to Charlotte and the Royal Irish, the Wildcats have played phenomenal Rugby. “It was sad to lose last year; being able to come back this year has been great,” says senior Fielding Carlson. “We’ve grown a lot throughout the season; we’ve struggled with injuries, so to get to this moment and eventually Nationals is great.”
The State Championship and National Championship are in front of the Wildcat minds, but they know it is one game at a time. “We’re trying to get better every day,” says senior Sean Cook. “We have States this week, but we’re keeping Nationals on our mind.”
Carlson put the opening season loss to Charlotte into perspective as the Wildcats turned the loss into lessons. “When we got beat by Charlotte, I knew we needed to step up our game,” Carlson explains. “St. Xavier was a pretty good game and in the Moeller game, we powered through penalties and cards and won; that is when I knew we were good.”
“After our St. Xavier game, we knew our standard had to be higher,” says Cook, who missed a chunk of the season due to injury. “After Charlotte reality came in that there are teams better than us, we came together and fixed what we needed to win.”
The Wildcats will be seeking their fourth straight State Championship (2020, there was no season) against Moeller. “We need to keep our heads and need to stay away from penalties and cards from the last game vs. Moeller,” says Carlson. “If we make good passes and play our game, we should be good.”
The first match earlier this season was a physical one between the Wildcats and Crusaders and the State Championship will be even more intense. “Moeller is a physical team,” Cook says. “We have to dominate them physically and find loopholes in their game to win a State Championship.”
Both the Varsity A and Varsity B matches will be live-streamed by Rugby Ohio and the link can be found on the SIBN tab. Varsity B takes the pitch at 3:30 p.m. and Varsity A will take the pitch at 6:30 p.m.