Whitman rugby storms Ankeny

Bailey Arango

Photo Credit : Bowman

Last Saturday, April 17, the Whitman men’s and women’s club rugby teams welcomed their counterparts from Eastern Washington and Spokane (Gonzaga) to Walla Walla for the first ever Whitman Round Robin Tournament on Ankeny Field. However, at the end of the day, no clear winners emerged as all six teams finished 1-1.

The Whitman Motherruckers started out their day strong with a victory over the Spokane Marmots, a regional club team. Junior captain Emily Lorente saw the win as indicative of the Motherruckers improvement over the course of the season.

“Our team has improved immensely and the Marmots are a team that beat us earlier this spring,” said Lorente.

Although the Motherruckers lost a 15-10 nail-biter to Eastern Washington in their second game, Lorente was still overwhelmingly positive about the weekend as a whole.

“The games went very well. We lost a very close game against Eastern, a highly competitive opponent,” said Lorente. “We played some superb rugby, and three of our first-year players scored their very first tries this weekend. It was a great end to a great season.”

First-year Emmy Coleman, one of the Motherruckers who scored for the first time this weekend, echoed an overwhelmingly positive sentiment even following the last-second loss.

“It was awesome,” Coleman said. “Even though we lost, having three players score their first tries in one day was great.”

The Whitman men fared just as well in their first match of the day, upsetting the traditional northwest powerhouse Eastern Washington Eagles  21-19, thanks to two tries from sophomore sensation Matt McMillan and clutch kicking from fellow sophomore John Henry Heckendorn. The win was particularly impressive considering the Eagles decimated the Reapers 91-0 on Ankeny just last fall.

“We came out strong against Eastern and made crucial open field tackles to stop their offensive powerhouse players,” said McMillan. “We played smart, hard-nosed rugby, and didn’t make a lot of mistakes and I think that was what really made the difference in the final outcome.”

The surprise victory over Eastern seemed to zap the Reapers’ energy as they came out flat in the first half of their second game against the Spokane Outlaws, a team made up of mostly Gonzaga University students, falling behind 20-0 early. Despite a furious second half comeback, led by Heckendorn, the Reapers could not overcome their first half deficit, eventually falling to the Outlaws by a final score of 20-12. Despite the loss, Men’s Head Coach Eric McAlvey had nothing but praise for his team Saturday.

“This past weekend we played the best rugby of the year,” said McAlvey. “The boys played with intensity and did not back down against the much larger, more athletic teams. They played two great games of team rugby.”

Although both teams’ seasons are drawing to a close, the optimism for next season is just beginning. McAlvey especially is hopeful for an improvement on their 4-5 finish.

“The team has been very solid this year,” said McAlvey. “We began the year with a large roster, lost a few guys through the typical attrition, but they have really come together this spring. We are graduating only four seniors this year, so we look to have the foundation in place for next year.”

Lorente was just as glowing with her assessment of the Motherruckers’ coming season.

“Our team has improved immensely since the beginning of last fall, and our program is really looking up,” she said. “We have the most dedicated, motivated, bad-ass team I have seen here at Whitman, and I am very excited to see the coming years of Whitman Motherruckers rugby.”

The Motherruckers finished their season on Saturday, April 17, while the Reapers will close out their season this weekend with their annual alumni game Saturday, April 24.