Rugby clubs victorious in GRU state tournament

Tech’s men’s and women’s rugby teams emerged victorious at last weekend’s Georgia Rugby Union state tournament at Georgia Southern University. Both teams defeated Georgia in their respective championship games to secure the title in the de facto state championship tournament.

The GRU tournament brings together several schools from around the South, including several of Tech’s local rivals. The men’s club has traditionally been successful at the annual tournament, and this year’s victory marked their third GRU title in the last four years.

For the women’s team, the win marked a major milestone for the program, which earned its first GRU title since the club was chartered in 2006.

“That much change in such a short amount of time is awesome. The way this team’s come together…to see our guys beat UGA and get their trophy, and for us to follow right behind them and beat UGA again and bring the trophy home was just an amazing feeling,” said senior back and women’s team captain Emily Woods.

In the men’s tournament, Tech was in a three-team pool with Auburn and Armstrong Atlantic State. The Jackets had no trouble taking down their pool opponents, defeating Armstrong Atlantic 45-7 and beating Auburn 55-0 despite rough weather conditions. They advanced to the semifinals to face Georgia Southern, and while the host Eagles led for most of the game, a late score gave Tech an edge and the Jackets went on to win 8-5.

The win over Southern put Tech in the title game, and Georgia’s 7-0 win over Kennesaw State set up a finals matchup between the two. Tech and Georgia played a close match throughout, but the Jackets secured a lead and held on for the 10-6 victory to win the tournament.

The women’s team had not yet built the reputation of the men’s squad, and as a result they were able to take advantage of opponents who underestimated them, including the tournament hosts in their first match.

“[Georgia Southern] had a say in who played what and when, and they were excited about playing [a supposedly] easy warm-up game. We came straight out of the gate and scored two unanswered, and it…woke them up a little bit. The final score was about 24-5, so it was fantastic,” Woods said.

Later in early-round play, Tech actually faced Georgia, but inclement weather cut the match short and the game ended in a tie. Tech’s semifinal win over Emory set up a rematch against Georgia in the finals. The Jackets had not beaten the Bulldogs before, but they proved to be up to the task in this game. In a low-scoring battle, Georgia’s failure to convert after their lone try proved costly as Tech held on to win the low-scoring battle 7-5 and win their first GRU title.

“It’s fantastic, at least for our morale…Not only did we just beat Georgia, but now we’re the No. 1 team in the state of Georgia. That’s going to put a fire under our belly,” Woods said.

One issue that has been a concern in the past for both teams—depth—has not been a problem this year, as both have been able to field full rosters.

“Winning the GRU is a huge step for us, especially with the amount of new guys that we had and the new guys we actually had playing in the tournament,” said Tech team president Rob DeBernard.

“Last year and this year were both huge recruiting seasons for us… The fact that we brought 23 girls down there is pretty amazing,” Woods said. She noted that several rookies were instrumental in the team’s victory, including tournament MVP Catherine Quesenberry.

Both teams will look to draw on the momentum from winning the GRU tourney to build successful seasons in the spring matrix season. The women’s team proved itself against experienced competition and is on the rise, and the men’s team is hoping for a chance to win the team’s second region title. “We won the South in 1998, and that was the last time…This year we’re looking to maybe make it two,” DeBernard said.