On June 5, 2016, the New Mexico Highlands University Vatos made history winning their second consecutive National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) Men’s 7’s National Championship. The NSCRO Championship event was part of the outstanding Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship weekend in Philadelphia, PA. The Vatos came to the event as a strong favorite to win and it showed in their play. The final was held inside Talen Energy Stadium in front of more than 10,000 fans. The Vatos, led by MVP Jeremy Misailegalu and Captain Kevon Williams, ran in 5 tries to beat St. Mary’s College of Maryland 31 to 7.
During the semifinals held earlier in that day, the Vatos shutout Franklin & Marshall College 22-0, while St. Mary’s edged Susquehanna University, 17-12. In the third place match, Susquehanna held off F&M, 17-12. The Claremont Colleges got the better of Babson College for fifth place, while LSU Alexandria claimed 7th place with 26-12 win over Ithaca College.
On the evening of their history win, the Vatos traveled into Philadelphia for a fine victory celebration dinner before flying to Albuquerque, NM on Monday morning to resume their summer jobs. Five team members will be living in Denver this summer to play 7's rugby with the Denver Barbarians.
NSCRO President, Steve Cohen, remarked that, “One of the main reasons we hold our Championship at the CRC is to give our teams and their fans an outstanding experience that will inspire them to continue to improve.”
Here’s what the finalists had to say about the experience:
New Mexico Highlands University
Head Coach Dick Green:
“I just asked them to play a good and entertaining game of rugby and enjoy themselves. I told them to be focused and make the crowd enjoy it. If you can run like the wind and make the ball move, it will be fun. And that’s just what they did. We had a good weekend to say the least.”
Senior and Captain Kevon Williams
“Today couldn’t have been any better. We ended up winning. We played great today. Everybody was clicking on all cylinders and it was just really good. We were pretty cool and calm the whole time. For five of the seven starters it was their third time being in the championship game and everybody else had played in the final last year so we were prepared. We thought that we’d end up playing the team who we played in pool play - Susquehanna - who had a pretty good game in the semifinals but St. Mary’s beat them in the end.”
Senior and Scrum Captain Eric Sykes
“We had a goal to win the National Championship and we accomplished it as a team, not as individuals. So it worked out perfectly.”
St. Mary's College of Maryland
Co-Coach Terry Pledger
“I thought the tournament was awesome. Our kids played well. The tournament was organized really well. I really enjoyed it. We were just happy to be there. It was a rough weekend. We played well and we were just glad to make it to the final. Our boys played well and got a little bit outmatched in that final. We’ll come back next year ready to play. The Vatos were awesome. It’s going to be hard to beat them at any level right now. They have a really good coach, strong players and well versed in offloading.”