Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rugby East Preview: West Virginia

Pictured: CJ Burnes

Article & Artwork by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Head Coach: John Baker
2015 Fall Record: In Conference (1-6), Overall (1-8)
7th Place, Rugby East
Currently ranked outside of D1A Top-Twenty

Players to Watch

CJ Burnes, Sr.
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Luke Ellis, Jr.
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Kyle Antonucci, Sr

Sam Krizner, So.

Aiden Perrenoud, Fr.

John Baker takes over the reigns as Head Coach of 15s for the University of West Virginia this fall. He has been the team’s head coach of 7s for three years, while serving as an assistant coach to 15s. The Mountaineers have struggled with roster depth since moving up to Division 1A two years ago, but indications are that the squad has doubled in size this fall. Baker is understandably hopeful that this is a barometer of things to come.

If the team’s College 7s Championships performance is any measure, Baker has some chops. The core players in their one-win 15s squad, also turned in a Top-Twenty season in 7s. At the Championships they were wily and competitive and took advantage of the gaps they earned. With that athleticism and acumen among their top players, Baker pointed out, it really is a matter of depth for his squad right now.

Take the jump to read more.
WVU’s leadership group has experience across a broad spectrum of wins and losses between the two codes. That should help them settle their younger athletes as things get bumpy in Rugby East this fall. If their young depth can step into the spotlight when it counts, these Mountaineers could be a tricky little spoiler while they build for the future. It all remains to be seen, of course.

Their upperclassmen are good and at least one of the freshmen recruits (Aiden Perrenoud of the Maryland Exiles) has some overseas experience. Youth in large numbers is never as encouraging in the short term as a club would really like, but it is what it is. The Mountaineers are retooling for the future. The team will be tested early and often this fall, as their schedule starts off with consecutive matches against the conference’s four top-twenty clubs.

The Mountaineers first home match will be at the end of that swing against their cross state rivals, the 17th ranked Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals. That’s the match WVU will always circle. Rivalries count, especially for the underdogs.

All things considered, sometimes rough starts are the best thing for a team. If Baker and his leaders can keep the lads positive through what is sure to be a bumpy first month of the season, they could very well find themselves in a much better position against the remaining teams who have typically had closer battles with them over the years. Hopefully the test against Wheeling will reveal that turn.

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