The Whittier College Rugby Club has been creating a larger presence on campus, recruiting more players and taking on more schools in competition over the last three years.
Recently, the Poets took the field to combat their rivals, the Occidental Tigers. Unfortunately, the Poets struggled early on and were not quick enough to escape the grasp of the tigers who dragged them to their defeat with a score of 61 to 22.
Even though the Tigers hunted down the Poets in their first league game, the Poets have had many victories this past season. “We’ve played against other schools,” Captain and treasurer senior Mafileo Tupou said. “Some of the other schools we have played have had an actual sport team established there, a rugby sport. So no, it is not our first [game against another school].”
The team has been working hard to spread awareness about their club in the Whittier community. In early December, the team had their first ‘Purple and Gold’ intersquad scrimmage. “We wanted to have a scrimmage game where we had free food for the students,” said junior Lance Manzon. “We were trying to make it so that all the students are able to really get a look at us and come out, have a good time, get to know us.” The intersquad scrimmage was a success, as many members of the Poet community came out to watch the Rugby Club play.
Every Thursday, the club has leadership meetings where they discuss what they are going to do to help the future of the club. At the moment, the club is trying to team up with other clubs, such at the Sustainability Club, and various societies, such as the Ionians, Mets, and Franklins.
“We are trying to get more involved in the community through the Sustainability Club, whether it is through beach clean-ups, trying to fix up a garden, or trying to get our name out there,” Vice-President of the Rugby Club senior Gregorio Verdugo said. “A couple of our members are involved in the ASA [Asian Student Association]. If we could tap into more sources like that, whether it be through other clubs or societies, then it exposes us more to the community as a whole.”
The team was able to obtain new gear, equipment, and uniforms through the money that the ASWC Senate allocated to them. “We are really just trying to get involved, not just with the club, but with the community. Our players are involved in societies. We are trying to not to just be a rugby club, but the Whittier College Rugby Club. We want everybody involved,” said Manzon. “Even with other sports we are trying to be involved. We are trying to get a flag that says, ‘Whittier College Rugby Loves You.’ We are trying to go to basketball games, softball games and swimming events, all so we can show our support, show them that we are here for them, and hopefully they will be there for us.”
Tupou, Verdugo, Manzon, and the club’s coaches all have strong faith in the team’s season this year. “Every year, the club has grown in numbers, it’s grown in strength, and I think we are the best it’s ever been,” said Tupou. “Some of the coaches were members who used to play.” When reflecting on their own experiences when they were players, the coaches explain howhard it was to get their numbers up. Rugby requires both teams to field fifteen players. In the past the club struggled to have a full squad when they practiced.
According to Tupou, the team is extremely dedicated and more organized this year. “We can definitely make a playoff run this year, for sure,” he said.
“That’s the goal, especially for myself. We really want to make the playoffs, and it is possible. We definitely could do it. We could make a run for sure.”
As for the progress and evolution of the team, the Whittier College Rugby Club has come a long way. “This program has had its ups and downs since I was a freshman,” said Verdugo. “They had the goal of creating a team, but they fell short of the fifteen-man minimum and they had to dissolve. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I joined that we actually had a team, and that is when we started creating standards for what we actually wanted to accomplish as we go.”
Manzon expressed how amazed he is with the club’s growth. “It’s crazy to think about. Mafi and I have been [at Whittier College] for three years, [and] Greg has been here for four years,” he said. “If you just look at the evolution of the team, we went from practicing in the park to now having equipment, field time, speed training, and weight room lifts. Our overall goal is to sow the seed for the freshman and sophomores. We want them to have the opportunity to take it to the next level.”
At the moment, the club has a total of 26 members, eight of which are first-years. The upperclassmen hope that the lower classmen will be able to recruit more members and continue to make progress. “We want to be able to come back at 40 [years old] with kids and see the rugby team out there with their warm ups and jerseys,” said Maxim. “We want to see something great.”
The Rugby Club’s next home game will be on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 4 pm, at the football stadium.