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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Club rugby team showcases talent and passion amid adversities, bidding farewell to an exciting season

Emilio Casanova / Hilltop Views
Freshman William Perrins hugs already graduated Vincent Villanueva in celebration after scoring on day two of the playoffs. Through both games, the Hilltoppers played with purpose and passion, achieving the ultimate goal of moving up to Division I.

For the first time, St. Edward’s University hosted the Lone Star Conference State Playoffs on Feb. 24-25, featuring SEU’s Rugby Football Club, the Rice University Owls, the Sam Houston State University Bearkats and the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners. The Hilltoppers fell short 39-16 in the semifinals against the Bearkats, but showed the crowd their fierce and undying effort against UTSA on day two, winning the game 31-21 and securing both third place and a spot in the Division II National Playoffs. 

“I’m so proud of all the boys, of all the growth we made throughout the season,” team captain Remigio Vitores said. “We just proved to the Conference, the school and everyone that doubted us that we are here to play, we are here as a team and how tough we are.”

The tournament was filled with high expectations and emotions. Most importantly, there were displays of brotherhood, commitment and passion for rugby. Despite the unfortunate score in the semifinals, the sense of accomplishment for the Hilltoppers remained strong, especially after coming out of an undefeated regular season.

“This sport and this team is all about brotherhood and camaraderie, and playing for each other when you feel like you want to quit,” Vincent Villanueva said. “It’s huge to be able to get your team and be able to push through those adversities.”

Villanueva slides on the field to protect the ball from the Roadrunners in the game for third place. Villanueva already graduated, but came back to the hilltop to finish the season alongside his fellow players. (Emilio Casanova / Hilltop Views)

The Conference playoffs feature three tier-one teams and one tier-two team. Last time that the Hilltoppers faced Sam Houston State, the home team played the Bearkats b-team, but during the semi-finals, St. Edward’s battled against their main roster. 

“We were the underdogs to begin with,” head coach Preston Reine said. “At the end of the day, I was very proud of the details we focused on and we really competed.”

Despite facing adversities during both games — such as Cyprien Legaut and Andres Cordova getting injured and finishing their last game with a smaller roster than the Roadrunners — the team did not give up. The energy from the supportive crowd and the eagerness to win is what allowed players like Vitores, Villanueva, Legaut, Michael McNulty, William Perrins and Belian Cotton to aggressively and passionately score for the team and not give up the fight. Players like Matthew Gerrets and Jack Hennessy were vital pieces for some of the team’s most important efforts. 

Sophomore Andres Cordova battles to get out of the Bearkats defense. Sophomore Will Mayer and senior Michael McNulty help Cordova advance from the other end. (Emilio Casanova / Hilltop Views)

“We have gone in the last three years from a club that was lucky if eight people showed up to training to being able to field a side and even having to turn some people down,” Reine said. “It’s the culture, you can tell they play for each other, and attitude wins above everything else.”

The brotherhood that lies at the heart of this team is what allows the players to continue to play and grow within the program, reaching never before seen levels and fostering a culture of belonging and companionship.

“(This was) the last game of my five years at St. Edward’s,” McNulty said. “I really appreciate what the rugby team has done for me, it has built a culture that not a lot of people understand what it is about, and playing rugby was definitely some of my favorite memories here.”

The team moves up to Division I rugby and will play in the Division II National Playoffs later in the semester. The advancements made throughout the years and the stellar results from this season only make the team more eager to continue to build the culture they started and accomplish even more.

“We want to build something that lasts and everything we have done has been a step toward that,” Reine said. “I’m excited to keep building that with them.”

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Anna Pratts
Anna Pratts, Sports Editor
Anna Pratts is a sophomore from Brazil and majoring in Writing and Rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media and minoring in Global Studies. This is her second year writing for Hilltop Views and her first semester as Sports Editor. She loves writing about sports, especially soccer and basketball, but she is looking forward to exploring other areas and growing as a writer.

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