MCRC Headed to Nationals with ECRC Title

By Tom Clayton

The Middlebury College Rugby Club (MCRC) beat Southern Connecticut State University 40-5 at a neutral site  on the campus of American International College in Springfield, Mass. on Saturday, Nov. 10. With the win the Blue clinched the East Coast Rugby Conference (ECRC) and a berth in the National Championship tournament this spring.

The team finished the fall campaign, their second season since moving up to the Division I-AA ECRC, with a 6-1 record.

In the final match of a decorated four-year career, All-American and Blue captain Brian Sirkia ’12.5 led the side in scoring with two tries and five conversions.

“There was no way he was going to let the MCRC lose this game,” said coach John Phillips. “ He led by example, leading from the front, setting the tone of how we play.”

“We try to think of ourselves as a machine that takes care of business every Saturday,” said Sirkia. “[We show] no emotion, no overconfidence or laziness, just fuel during the week and act professionally on Saturday morning. That approach has worked for us so far.”

The mechanistic win capped the career of a player coach John Phillips has described as unique.

“He will be missed, for his leadership skills on and off the field. He was truly one of the great captains of the MCRC,” Phillips said.

The side has reached the national tournament in six of the last seven years, but this year’s bid is the first since the step up to Division I.

“I think that going into the game against Boston College two weeks ago we were too caught up with thinking about how we needed to win and how that was the big chance to win the league,” said Ben Stasiuk ’13.5. “We had been thinking about that game for weeks, unlike any other game where I feel before we seemed to only prepare for that week’s game and then move forward to the next week’s. I think this put too much hype on the game and our heads were too occupied with what was on the line and we did not adjust to our mistakes well and committed tons of penalties.”

Saturday’s match began with another slew of penalties, and when Laird Silsby ’15 was sent off for the match with a yellow card, the Blue faced the remainder of the match short one man.

“We just stayed completely level headed and made the adjustments we had to make on our own game. I am really proud of the adaptability and control shown by everyone on the team,” Stasiuk said.

Once the side settled down the result followed with relative ease. Playing with poise in the backfield, Stasiuk, Sirkia and Dylan Whitaker ’13 controlled possession and distributed the ball to the side’s fleet outside runners.

The champion of the ECRC earns an automatic bid to the national tournament in the spring. The side will reconvene after the holidays to resume training and initiate a crop of new players added in the interim.

“Rugby practice will start up again mid to late March and we will have a few scrimmages against various teams to prep for the tournament. Dartmouth won the Ivy League so we are really hoping to get another crack at them,” said Stasiuk. “We are also getting some great players coming back from abroad and guys who play football in the fall.”

The captain will be difficult to replace, but Sirkia leaves the club in better shape than he found it in.

“Every member of the club, not the just the 23 first-side players, are working incredibly hard and contributing,” said Sirkia. “The cohesion of the whole club is stronger than it’s ever been since I’ve been here, which makes a difference every day.”

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