Salem State University - 2016 Challenge Cup National Champion
2017 National Challenge Cup Recap
Pilots Steer Their Way to the NSCRO Challenge Cup Championship
The Bethel College Pilots have made history by winning the 2017 NSCRO Challenge Cup National Championship in their second year of existence.
The four regional champions: Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA), Bethel College (Mishawaka, IN), Iowa Central Community College (Fort Dodge, IA) and Trinity College (Hartford, CT) met at Founders Field in Cheswick, PA on 22 April 2017 to start the weekend off with semifinal matches to determine which two teams would take the pitch in the championship match on Sunday, 23 April.
When the Championship was finshed, it was the Bethel College Pilots in just their second year of existence who claimed the title.
It all began on a crisp overcast day when Bethel faced Trinity College. Fine playing weather yet a bit brisk for the fans. Unfortunately, Trinity had a number of spring injuries which reduced their squad to a total of 17 players. Nonetheless, Trinity came out firing on all cylinders. However, Bethel’s Jordan Hutsell slotted a penalty kick two minutes after kick-off which was followed by a try by winger Adam Trejo who kicked the conversion to give Bethel a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes. Late in the first, Trinity prop Josh Teegardin powered his way into across the try line to score and with the conversion Trinity closed the gap to 10-7 as the half ended. Bethel was able to score early in the 2nd half to take a 15-7 lead and with 15 minutes left, Adam Trejo scored his second try to push the lead to 22-7. A few minutes later hard-running Trinity center Chris Cilliers scored and his conversion brought Trinity with 8 points at 22-14. With two minutes left, Cilliers did it again and brought the Trinity within one point. As time was expiring, winger Win Snyder scored for Bethel to end the match 27 to 21 in favor of Bethel.
The Sea Lions of Point Loma Nazarene University were making a return trip to the Championship after losing in the 2016 final to Salem State University. On a mission they were. But they were facing a fledgling club in Iowa Central Community College which, in just two years of existence under head coach Brent Nelson, has built a solid team. Loma’s scrappy scrumhalf Riley Cannon dotted down the ball after his nice pop kick to opening the scoring 10 minutes in. A few minutes later the Sea Lions center Austin Warczakowski found the try zone and gave his team a 10-0 lead. The Sea Lions defense held the Tritons of Iowa Central under pressure most of the first half with only two penalty kicks to show for their efforts. The half ended 10-6. Loma center Ethan Bitticks ran free to give his team a 15-6 lead. It wasn’t until 20 minutes were left in the match that the Tritons found the try zone when scrumhalf Ben Terrell dotted down. A few minutes later reserve winger Evian Akers added another and gave his side its first lead at 18-15. With time running out the Sea Lions could not find a hole in the Tritons defense and Akers added his second try giving his side a 25-15 win in a hard fought match.
On Sunday, the sun was shining and the temperature made the fans happy. Trinity faced Point Loma Nazarene for third place. A match that NSCRO President Steve Cohen says is his “favorite match of the Championship because it a true test of what these young adults are made of. How they handle a disappoint loss on Saturday is a test of character that has been instilled in them by their family and coaches.”
No better example of this can be found than the Trinity College players. After Saturday’s physical encounter with Bethel, three players were unable to lace up for the game. With 14 players they took the field – no complaints, no excuses.
Led by their captain Tucker Morgan they never quit and never stopped hitting hard giving the Sea Lions all they could handle. The scoreline really didn’t matter. Down 32-7 at the half, they lost another player to injury early in the second half. With just 13 players against 15 they scored two more tries and played even with Loma. The final score of 49-17 did not reflect the true essence of rugby that was on display.
The finals were not for the weak of heart with two very physical sides taking the pitch. Referee Jamie Miller had to be ‘on his game’ for this one. Thankfully he was.
Bethel started the scoring when second row Jack Dugan nailed a penalty kick. Eight minutes in, the powerful running of Triton Ani Mteto paid dividends with a try a few minutes later making it 5-3. Adam Trejo continued his scoring ways with a nice run to give the Pilots an 8-5 lead. Triton flyhalf Matt Barker responded with a penalty kick to tie the match, but Trejo who had become a scoring machine added another try with 15 minutes left and Bethel was in the led again 13-8. With a few minutes left in the half Barker scored and converted to give Iowa Central a 15-13 lead at the half. It appeared to be a match that would be won by the last team scoring. Caleb Keas ran in an early second half try to give Bethel the lead 20-15. The Tritons added 2 more penalty kicks and with 17 minutes left had a 21-20 lead. A few minutes late Bethel’s flyhalf Win Snyder scored and the Pilot took a 27-21. Then the scoring ended as it began with a Jack Dugan penalty kick and Bethel College were the Champs with a final score of 30 to 21.
Ani Mteto of Iowa Central Community College was named MVP.
The NSCRO Challenge Cup playoff system which was inaugurated in the 2014-15 season for the men's playoff system has over 100 clubs currently participating in this playoff system. The goal of the Challenge Cup is to further the growth of small colleges who are working hard to reach the top but have yet to find success at the NSCRO’s Champions Cup playoffs which includes over 200 clubs. The Challenge Cup is helping these teams achieve greater awareness and support on and off the field which, in the past, would have only been possible through a successful run in the larger, more competitive Champions Cup.
Iowa Central, Bethel and Trinity already have plans to enter the Champions Cup playoff system this coming competitive year.
NSCRO President Steve Cohen remarked that “the importance of the Challenge Cup should not be underestimated as all four teams have found that their participation has brought better and positive rugby awareness at their school – both from the administration and student body – which will help benefit the club moving forward."
"In addition, this event has sparked alumni interest and support. Our goal is to inspire teams that rarely, if ever, have had the chance to be in a National Playoff System and as we continue to help legitimize rugby in the eyes of the schools across the country.”
Trinity College coach, Dennis Lyon, advised that their school now supports the rugby club with improved access to fields, athletic trainers, and more.
The event was a great success thanks to the support of many people and companies, including but not limited to:
The Pittsburgh Harlequins RFA for hosting it at Founders Field
Matt Rosemeyer, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Harlequins RFA
Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. – The Top Sponsor of NSCRO
Rhino Rugby – The Official Equipment and Ball Supplier of NSCRO
Bill Krecker and Ed Baker for their event support
USA Rugby-appointed Referees – Brian Kelly and Jamie Miller
Mark Seaton, Tom Barr and the Allegheny RRS for providing ARs
Match Commentator – Mark Palmieri
We would also like to thank USA Rugby and Rich Cortez, USAR College Director, for their recognition and support of NSCRO as an independent organization and working together with us for bettering the collegiate rugby experience for all.
In addition to team trophies (1st - 4th place) and player medals (gold, silver and bronze), NSCRO President, Steve Cohen, presented the following awards:
Team Gift Certificates
Rhino Rugby generously provided gift certificates as follows:
1st Place = $500
2nd Place = $250
3rd Place = $150
4th Place = $100
Click here to see full report on the Player Awards.
2016-17 Men's Challenge Cup
The National Championship was held at Founders Field in Cheswick, PA on April 22-23. See below for RECAP,
Click here for the latest Conference/Union playoff results.
Summaries by Region below.
Region 1 - East Coast
On Nov. 19-20, Mount St. Mary's University hosted the East Coast Region Championship in Emmitsburg, MD. Trinity College (New England RFU) handled Alfred University (Upstate SCRC) 53-10, while Washington & Lee (Cardinals CRC) won by forfeit over Widener University (East Penn RU). Widener was unable to field a team. In the final, Washington & Lee scored first to take a 5-0 lead but Trinity tied it up 5-5 by halftime. In the second half, Trinity's backline attack and staunch defense led them to a 27 to 5 win and earn them their first appearance in the National Championship set for April 22-23, 2017 at Founders Field in Cheswick, PA.
Region 2 - Central
On Nov. 12-13 the Central Region Championship was held at Cyntheanne Park and was hosted by Southeastern Youth Rugby. The semis saw Bethel College (Indiana RFU) knocking off Minnesota State University Moorhead (Minnesota RFU) 115-0, while Case Western Reserve University (Great Lakes CRC) pulled away from Fairmont State (Three Rivers CRC) in the second half to win 54-14. In the final, Bethel powered its way over CWRFU 72 to 3, while Fairmont State won a hard-fought match with Moorhead 36-26. Bethel College, in just its 2nd year of competition, has qualified for the NSCRO National Championship on April 22-23, 2017 at Founders Field in Cheswick, PA.
Region 3 - West
The Tritons of Iowa Central Community College won the Mid-America RFU championship beating Wayne State College 60-22 on Nov. 13. The Tritons faced off against Tarleton State University (Lonestar Conference) on March 25 at the Cowboy Cup hosted by the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas. The Tritons were in fine form winning 55 to 5. Similar to Bethel College, Iowa Central is in just its 2nd year of competition. The Tritons have qualified for the NSCRO National Championship on April 22-23, 2017 at Founders Field in Cheswick, PA.
Region 4 - Pacific Coast
On April 1-2, Cal Maritime Academy hosted the Pacific Coast Region Championship in Vallejo, California. In the first semifinal, the Point Loma Nazarene University defeated Humboldt State University 34-17. The University of San Francisco followed suit with a big win over Willamette University 67-5. On Sunday, Willamette bounced back with a 37 to 19 victory over Humboldt State. In the final, PLNU held off USF 35-19 to earn its second trip to the National Championship. In 2016, PLNU finished second.
Trinity College - 2016 NSCRO East Coast Region Champion
Bethel College - 2016 NSCRO Central Region Champion
Iowa Central Community College - 2017 NSCRO West Region Champion
Point Loma Nazarene University - 2017 NSCRO Pacific Coast Region Champion. Photo by Jeffrey Purganan, used with permission
"NSCRO has done a tremendous job for schools like Christopher Newport University and us. There is such a separation between levels and it's great for more teams to have post season opportunities. W&L has 800 men and with varsity sports that comes down to 600 men to make up our team. NSCRO and the Challenge Cup has meant a lot to our alumni, fans, school and players. All have been much more excited about what's happening with our club. The school recently removed two fields to make way for more housing so field space has been a real issue this Spring. Having a post season like the Challenge Cup has helped get us field space and kept practice attendance up. Thanks again for everything."
~John Welsh, Washington & Lee University Head Coach
"Even though the rugby club at Pacific has been around since 1908, this is the first time that the club has achieved such success and it has greatly increased awareness both on campus and off. Attendance at home games was doubled this year and both on campus groups and alumni have been very supportive. Financial support from the school for travel has been very generous and fundraising has been more profitable than usual due to our greater exposure."
~Kreg Nelson, University of the Pacific, Head Coach
"With our club making it to the NSCRO Challenge Cup National Championship it has brought lots of excitement to our campus and opened many students eyes to the great sport of rugby. We have also had a tremendous increase in support from our alumni and the community here in Greeley. We have received the support of a few companies from the Denver area to help fund the trip to Nationals. The excitement created by our recent success should ensure that UNC Rugby will continue to grow and improve over the next couple seasons!"
~ Erik Smith, University of Northern Colorado, Club President
Salem State University - 2015 Challenge Cup East Coast Region Champion
Point Loma Nazarene University - 2016 Challenge Cup Pacific Coast Region Champion
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis - 2015 Challenge Cup Central Region Champion
University of Northern Colorado - 2016 Challenge Cup West Region Champion