As the summer season comes to an end and the school year draws near, the Huskies not only look forward to another fifteens season, but also reflect upon an historic spring and summer. This past June, the 7s team competed in the Collegiate Rugby Championship at PPL Park in Philadelphia, PA. The most prestigious collegiate rugby event in the country, and broadcasted on NBC, the CRCs were an immense honor for both the men that competed and the program as a whole.
Arriving in Philadelphia on Thursday evening, the team immediately got to work by prehabbing and eating properly. Over the course of the next day, the first time competitors mentally prepared for the tournament and took a tour of the facilities. In true Maddog fashion, the boys were constantly joyful and always had time for a little friendly conversation with the other teams. While the opportunity to play in such an amazing stadium in front of thousands of spectators was humbling, the Maddogs were never star struck or awed.
Friday evening, the players and coaches from each team travelled to Comcast XFinity Live for a kick-off dinner and a chance to mingle with each other before the big day. The next morning, it was time to go to work. First up was Penn State, a team favored by most to win the pool easily. The Huskies, never to be intimidated, saw this as a challenge and were determined to prove to the rugby community that they were ready for what lay ahead. The game was tight, even though the Huskies were far from playing their best rugby. A final score of 12-5 Penn State put the boys in a hole going forward.
The second match of the day would see the Huskies line up against North Carolina State, a team they had faced and defeated a short two weeks earlier. Three tries from CRC All-Tournament First Team player Dimitri Efthimou gave the Huskies their first win in the tournament and boosted morale going forward. In the third game of the day, the team took on Notre Dame, and the result was not what the boys had hoped for. After day one, the Huskies were 1-2 going into the Bowl Semifinals.
Saturday evening, the team got an opportunity to connect with members of the University and Alumni at an event in downtown Philadelphia. In attendance was Peter Roby, Northeastern University’s athletic director, who related to those in attendance how rugby’s international community and inclusiveness truly speak to Northeastern’s reputation as an international university. Members of the FONUR board also spoke about the essence of being a Maddog; the grit and heart that sets NURFC members apart from other teams. The boys also received a little history lesson from the older FONUR members, who spoke about their experiences during the club’s infancy. Going into Sunday’s bowl rounds, the men knew that they weren’t only playing for themselves, but also all those who have come before them. The theme of the evening seemed to be “Once you earn the right to become a Maddog, you’re a Maddog for life.”
Sunday afternoon arrived with clear skies and another exciting day of Husky rugby. Once again, the team would face off against N.C. State for an opportunity to advance to the Bowl final. The men won handily, with tries from a number of players and stifling defense carrying the day. Next up was Virginia Tech in the Bowl final, a team Northeastern had not yet seen play. Nonetheless, the Huskies knew they could not lose and were chomping at the bit to step onto the pitch. Supporting the Huskies were hundreds of rabid fans all wearing “Northeastern is Boston Strong” t-shirts. With one of, if not the largest fan sections at the tournament, and playing on NBC, the men of Northeastern Rugby took the field for the Bowl Championship. Tech would throw the first punch to get on the board, and again to go up 12-0. However, Northeastern kept their composure and stepped up with a long range try to get on the board and would punch another try in to tie the game before the half. When the second half came, the Huskies would go up with another two tries to Tech’s one. The buzzer came and saw Northeastern on top 21-17; Bowl Champions in their first ever trip to the CRCs! The boys immediately took the trophy to Northeastern’s box seats and presented it to Tony Kalaijakis, a founding member of the club, who accepted it with tears in his eyes. This trophy was the culmination of the hard work he and other members put in during the club’s early years, on a patch of dirt and rocks on Huntington Avenue.
Thank you to all those who made this possible including Mr. Peter Roby and the Northeastern University Athletic Department, for their unparalleled support of the team. Thank you to our trainer Liz Cilia, who kept the guys from falling apart all weekend. Thanks also to FONUR for showing the boys their past and helping them pave the way for the future. Finally, thank you to the hundreds of fans who travelled all the way to Philadelphia to support their friends and family.
Also of note, this past summer saw five Huskies, Dimitri Efthimou, Chris Frazier, Diego Maqueiera, Aaron Smith and Aaron Reich selected to train with the Northeast Olympic Development Academy as they pursue their Olympic aspirations. Chris Frazier was selected to play with the academy’s first side in the Serevi 7s tournament in Glendale, CO this coming weekend. Dimitri Efthimou was one of only a handful of U.S. players selected to travel to England for the World Club 7s tournament at Twickenham Stadium this weekend, the most storied rugby stadium in the world.
Check back soon for our Fall Season Preview! Go NU!