Monday, July 15, 2013

Lone Star Conference 2013-2014 Preview

The Lone Star Conference (LSC) is a National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) conference that includes the formerly D2/D3 men's collegiate rugby clubs in Texas. These teams play for a conference championship (called a "State Championship" in Texas) that qualifies two teams for a opportunity to play against the top two teams of NSCRO's West Division in the Cowboy Cup, a regional playoff event from which the winner advances to NSCRO's National Championship playoff structure. In April 2014, after the regular season is finished, the LSC teams will be afforded the opportunity to compete with other collegiate rugby teams outside of their conference in the Texas Cup. The Texas Cup is an inter-conference, round-robin series of games culminating in a championship designed to give teams that do not advance beyond their conference a post-season competition.

The LSC has two divisions, North and South, and each club plays home and away matches against opponents in the same division. The North Division includes first-year club McMurry University (Abilene), Midwestern State (Wichita Falls), the University of Dallas, Southern Methodist University (Dallas), UT-Dallas, and LeTourneau University (Longview). The South Division includes Angelo State (San Angelo), UT-San Antonio, St. Edward's University (Austin), Lamar University (Beaumont), and Texas State (San Marcos) plays their 2nd XV in the LSC for developmental purposes.

Take the jump to read more.

Under the direction of Commissioner Shayne Roberson (also the coach at UTSA), the LSC enjoyed a solid 2012-2013 season. UT-Dallas and Angelo St advanced to the Cowboy Cup regional playoff only to be defeated by NSCRO heavy-weights Denver University and the Colorado School of Mines. In their first season, LeTourneau University finished a strong second place in the North Division. Additionally, a few of the men's clubs helped to establish women's clubs at their respective universities.

So this year, the LSC adds a women's rugby division with six clubs: UT-Dallas, UT-San Antonio, Lamar, Texas Christian University (Ft Worth), Rice (Houston), and Sam Houston State (Huntsville). With the Southwest Women's Conference's four teams, this brings the total women's collegiate clubs in Texas to 10!

The LSWC clubs will play a home and away schedule that affords them some flexibility this year. All six of the LSWC clubs are either new within the past three years or newly re-formed after a hiatus. To account for travel and operational expenses, these clubs will be allowed to play their matches as XVs, 10s, or 7s, dependent on how they are able to travel and sustain numbers. While this will prevent them from competing in playoffs beyond the Conference, they will be allowed to play for a conference championship at the end of the season.

The UT-Dallas men have the hardest row to hoe this year. The Comets are only a two year old program. Both years they won the conference championship under the direction of Head Coach Tony Wagner and his Assistant Bear Hinson. UT-Dallas boasts a record of 17-0 in conference play with only three losses to Oklahoma (D1A), the University of North Texas (D1AA), and Denver University at the NSCRO Cowboy Cup semifinals. The Comets graduated 13 players this past Spring, but have 20 returning. Coach Wagner is entirely realistic in his preparations for this season when he states, "I know the lads want to continue this streak, and with a bulls eye planted firmly on our backs, we will have to work hard. If (they) want to remain undefeated, it will be up to them to put in the work to remain that way and win another state championship."

UT-San Antonio have qualified for state-level playoffs every year of their existence. In analysis, Coach Shayne Roberson says, "Twice UTSA has lost at the state playoffs by not converting our conversion kicks and leaving those points on the field. Our plan to realize a State Championship are going to be to improve on making our conversion kicks and getting our pack to act as one unit." Roberson sees the new scrum cadence as something that can only benefit his small, but mobile pack. The Roadrunners lost approximately 10 players to graduation or transfer (UT CAP) from last year and have about the same number returning, so early recruiting will factor heavily into success in the numbers game that is inherent in collegiate rugby.

After the 2012-2013, St Edward's University (SEU) decided to step away from their foray into D1AA college rugby and concentrate on what they are, a small college. Although the Southwest Conference has contested this decision, SEU maintained a developmental team in the LSC last year and is considered a team in good standing in that conference. SEU graduated several starters and lost one to a major injury, but the Hilltoppers have several promising athletes returning. Additionally, they will have Lachlan Ferguson back as Head Coach. Since he recently resigned as Director of Rugby and Head Coach of the Austin Rugby Club, SEU will have his undivided attention. Coach Lach is excited about this year and feels that the team made a great decision to concentrate solely on play in an NSCRO conference. Coach Lach also has an extensive and ambitious recruiting plan. This plan may not bear fruit this year, but with the goals the Hilltoppers have set - win their conference and compete for a national title in NSCRO - it will definitely need to bear lots of fruit in coming years. To attain their goals, SEU knows they must deal with UTD. Ferguson sees that as the major challenge this coming season.

With two more men's teams than last season and a full women's schedule, the Lone Star Conference presents a full plate of collegiate rugby for 2013-2014. Check back with This Is American Rugby for updates as the season progresses!

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