The Naval Academy gains an explosive athlete in Edmund Soeder as he commits to continue his academic and rugby career in Annapolis, Maryland. Soeder was a member of the State and National Championship Wildcats in 2022 and has proven to be one of the best rugby players in the class of 2023.
"I'm ecstatic for Ed and his family. Coach Hickie runs a tremendous program in Annapolis and Ed will be playing one of the toughest schedules in the country week in and week out," explains Head Rugby Coach Dan Arbeznik '00. "I'm quite excited to see the relationship forming between Saint Ignatius High School and our Service Academies. Their head coaches have told me innumerable times that the kids from the Jesuit Schools instinctively know what it is to lead a life of service. The curve is shallow as our guys get what it takes to be a Man for Others."
"The Navy coaches reached out to me after I participated in the summer tour with the U18 team," says Soeder. "That school checked all the boxes for me and I am excited to be heading to Annapolis."
Rugby has grown exponentially over time in the states. It has significantly increased at Saint Ignatius High School, where the program has won seven State Championships and a National Title. Soeder found a passion for the game at a young age and has blossomed into a solidified forward for the Wildcats.
"It started with my cousin Sean Soeder '18; he introduced me to the game and with the help of my coaches and teammates, I began to love the sport," Soeder says. "I love the physicality and mental aspect of rugby. There is nothing quite like playing a full rugby game and winning."
It was a memorable summer for Soeder as Team USA selected him to play on their U18 team to compete in the Netherlands. On the international stage, Soeder competed against the national teams of the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium while representing the United States. "That experience helped me so much because it boosted my confidence in my skills," says Soeder. "I could play with some of the best and learn more of the game, which made me better."
"Of the 30+ players that Team USA took on tour this summer, Ed was only one of two selected to start all three matches. I think more than anything, Ed gained a tremendous amount of confidence in himself knowing that he had what it took to play at a level beyond where we are," explains Arbeznnik. "That transfers to the rest of our guys. We'll see constant improvement within our ranks if they can measure themselves by those standards and shoot for those goals."
Soeder is a dual-sport athlete at Saint Ignatius as he represented the Blue and Gold on the gridiron in the fall. The senior was a standout middle linebacker for Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger '02 in 2022. As the quarterback of the defense, Soeder was the third-leading tackler of the team with 48 and recorded three sacks on the season. "As a middle linebacker, you must be physical when you meet a pulling lineman or running back in the gaps," explains Soeder. "The physicality and team aspect of football carriers over to rugby which has helped my development."
The Rugby forward worked to regain strength after a shoulder injury near the end of his sophomore year made him miss his entire junior football season. Through countless hours of recovery, Soeder returned to the football field and rugby pitch. "There was the mental side where you worry about reinjuring the shoulder," says Soeder. "After going through physical therapy months, I gained trust in my body and full confidence to keep playing."
The 2022 Rugby season was remarkable for the Wildcats as they hoisted the program's first National Championship after falling just short in the previous season. Soeder played a vital role on that squad as a forward for the Wildcats. "We had a lot of returning guys coming into that season and with our amazing coaching staff, we were able to raise our game," Soeder says. "That was an amazing experience; we are much younger this year, but with our talent, we want to go back-to-back."
For the 2023 season, Soeder will be essential to the Wildcats protecting their National crown. One of the four core values of our club is Humility. I think most people would be surprised to learn that Ed is not one of our 'Chiefs' (kind of a 'captain') in our system but with a much higher role," Arbeznik explains. "That doesn't mean that he's not a leader. With Ed, there is no Ego. He goes out and performs and works his tail off. He's a "team first" kind of guy."
Since stepping foot on campus at Saint Ignatius, Soeder has committed to becoming the best teammate and player he can be and it was evident from day one for coach Arbeznik.
"Ed has had to ride the waves of Fortune over these four years. His Freshman year was cut short by the COVID pandemic. He earned a rare starting role in our first XV as a sophomore but had to miss out on the National Championships when he injured his shoulder in the weight room," says Arbeznik. "He returns to us having just played overseas in Amsterdam in July for the USA and with all of the experience of last year's National Championship and three-match Tour of France. One thing that stands out about Ed (and a number of our other guys) is just how well-rounded they are. Ed is in student government, played middle linebacker in football and is an excellent student in the classroom."
As the season approaches, the Rugby Cats are considered the underdogs after a big graduation class in 2022. Still, for Soeder, that only amplifies the will to protect the National Championship. "I am looking forward to playing with a new group of guys and getting with this group and getting to know their skills," explains Soeder. "We have a lot of young talent, so it'll be interesting to see who steps up. We are the underdogs this season, which I enjoy; it is a motivational factor for us."
Before Soeder competes at the Division I level with the Midshipmen, he and his guys will look to repeat as State and National Champions in 2023.