Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rugby East Preview: Penn State

Pictured: Malcolm May
Article & Artwork by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Head Coach: Blake Burdette
2015 Fall Record: In Conference (6-1), Overall (8-2)
2nd Place, Rugby East
Current D1A Top-Twenty Ranking: #8

Players to Watch:

Malcolm May, Jr.
Rugby East All-Conference Player of the Year, 2015
Jimmy Ronan, Jr.
1st Team All-Conference, 2015
Mike Eife, Sr.
1st Team All-Conference, 2015 – Team Captain
Zach Barnes, Sr.
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Tyler May, So.
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Kevin Trotter, So.
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Selby Niu, Sr.
Team Captain
Thomas Del Pino, Jr.
Transfer from Army-West Point, 2x All-Conference selection

It is a tough pill to swallow when a team defeats its conference leader in the final week of the season and still ends up in 2nd place. That is what happened to Penn State last year though, and it is one of a number of reasons they are carrying a chip on their shoulder through 2016.

Entering his second full year at the helm of the historically successful PSU program, head coach, Blake Burdette makes no mistake about the team’s goals. Flatly, he states, “The standard here is to win the conference. Our focus this fall is to beat everyone who stands in our way.”

Take the jump to read more.

Taking a quick look at the club’s roster and it is easy to believe in them. With seven returning All-Conference performers from 2015, Penn State is going to be very formidable. Malcolm May, in particular is a player fans should count on to lead with fire this fall. After his 2015 Rugby East Player of the Year performance, the junior had legitimate expectations to be named among the 2015-16 US College All-Americans. That accolade was not to be, though.
Chip on Shoulder - earned.

Adding to State’s already stellar line-up is a very intriguing transfer player, Thomas Del Pino. Army’s twice All-Conference Fly-half will be looking to make an impact on a squad already awash in talent. With the excellent leadership in Mike Eife and Selby Niu in place, Burdette’s job may seem simple to an outsider. Rugby East is never that, however. “We are playing very tough competition. We know it won’t ever be easy, but we want to play the best,” said the coach.

That attitude of wanting to play the best is a theme throughout Rugby East and it is a major reason for the conference’s ongoing success in American rugby. All of that aside, Burdette is doing work to keep the men focused on what’s in front of them, instead of on future dates throughout the year. After showing well versus Queen’s University, Ontario and Pitt in pre-conference tests, the key match-up for the Burdette’s squad is West Virginia on Sept 9th.

There is no hiding it, Penn State is Business First this fall. There should be many a good time coming in Happy Valley, but this squad also provides plenty of reason for fans to travel with them. They’ve got West Point (Oct. 8th) and Kutztown (Nov. 4th) both on the itinerary this year. Pack your blue and white scarves for those matches. If all goes according to plan, you will want to wave them.

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