The Colorado State men’s rugby team’s first match of league play might also be the most important of the season.
The Rams takes on rival CU to begin league play Friday. It will be a chance for the team to set the tone for the rest of the season and assert themselves as the premier rugby school in the state.
“CSU vs CU. It’s the state rivalry,” said forward Estevan Crispin. “You’ve got the Showdown (football game) and now this is like part two. We’ve got to do our part.”
The teams went 1-1 against each other last year with the Rams taking the most recent meeting in the spring. The Buffs had won their first meeting last fall and finished atop the conference, thereby earning an automatic postseason bid.
“This is when all of our fans come out so it’s always important,” head coach Justin Mort said. “Last year we split it, but this team has really matured since then.”
CSU is without a few starters from last year including All-American Stephen Karas, but forwards Erick Hamilton, Evan Geist and Ben Pinkelman have stepped into greater leadership roles and are more than confident in where the team stands heading into the CU game.
“The experience we have together and the chemistry we have built as a team is even farther ahead than in past years,” Hamilton said.
Geist also feels good about the familiarity they have established, all the way down to freshmen Jack O’Connor and Liam Wynne who have impressed coaches so much that they might start in Friday’s matchup.
“Even with the younger guys, we just have a really good continuity and gel,” Geist said.
Pinkelman also said he was impressed with the younger players and referred to O’Connor and Wynne as future stars of the team. Pinkelman’s outstanding play last year earned him a chance to represent the U.S. on the international stage, but he said the rivalry with CU has him more excited for this game than any other in his entire life.
The rivalry definitely adds some extra fuel to the fire this week. According to players, now it’s just a matter of bringing that same intensity to every match in order to reach the post-season.
“We get so prepared for CU and we want to hold ourselves to that standard all year,” Hamilton said.
The game takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19 at CSU’s IM Fields on Meridian Ave. and South Dr. It marks the first game of league play for the Rams whose A-Side swept their preseason games against Colorado School of Mines, Colorado College and University of Denver by a combined total of 162-19.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @emccarthy22.