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Rugby’s championship dreams end

The BG rugby team’s dreams of a national championship came to an end this past weekend as they came up dry in New Mexico.

The Falcons struggled to adjust to the climate change, losing close games to both Kutztown State and Air Force, in which everything they had was given, but wasn’t enough.

“I would have liked to have ended my coaching career in the national tournament on a more positive note, but I have to remember not to let that one weekend spoil what was otherwise a stellar year,” head coach Roger Mazzarella said.

Mazzarella was visibly disappointed with how the weekend played out when the issue was addressed during practice on Tuesday. It also became clear that the entire team had become frustrated with the weather conditions that have plagued Bowling Green teams all spring long, citing the fact the Kutztown State had played twice as many games as BG this spring. This fact produced an end result that had BG players gasping for air all day long.

The unfamiliar conditions included very dry air, with only seven percent humidity, and a significant change in altitude – Albuquerque, NM is 5,500 feet above sea level – that left BG at a clear disadvantage.

Mazzarella took the team on extra early morning runs while there, as well as put them through long distance swimming exercises. Still, it wasn’t enough.

“I’ve had games where I’ve used a lot of subs before, but this was by far the most I’ve ever absolutely needed to use,” Mazzarella said.

The effects of the weekend appeared evident during practice on Tuesday, with some players sitting out due to lingering injuries, and several players still recovering from the significant toll that the weekend took on their bodies.

In the first game of the weekend against Kutztown State, the Falcons trailed almost the entire game. But the Falcons kept fighting back, and never really let the game get out of reach.

An early second half score by Kutztown State gave them their biggest lead of the game, 22-10. Viviani and the Falcons would come storming back however, cutting the lead to just two points with time running out in the second half.

Soon after, Viviani completed the second half comeback with a 50-yard penalty kick conversion, giving Bowling Green a 23-22 lead, their first of the entire game.

The storybook comeback had a heartbreaking final chapter however, as Kutztown State punched it in for the go ahead score with under three minutes to play in the game handing BG a 27-23 loss.

The Falcons followed up that game with a match up with another team that sat near the top of the national rankings, Air Force. This second game saw an obviously physically exhausted BG team fall behind 33-13 at one point.

Viviani, with some help from Kyle Bonek and Ian Gagnon, brought the team back once again, however. Gagnon’s try and Viviani’s conversion late in the game cut the lead down to just two points. Had there been more time left in the game, BG would have likely had a realistic shot of riding this momentum straight to the win column. Time, however, ran out on the Falcons, who lost the game – which was voted the no. 2 most exciting game of the tournament – by a final score of 36-34.

The Falcons followed up their second defeat of the weekend by picking apart New Mexico Tech. BG overwhelmed NMT 52-10, with Rocco Mauer and Mitch Albers leading the way on the scoreboard.

Even though BG has now been knocked out of the running to win a national championship, the team can still look proudly upon the past year. The team won the Midwest title, a 27th straight Mid-American Conference Championship, The Michigan Collegiate Conference Championship and currently holds a record of 48-4.

The season will come to a close this coming Saturday, as the team will face off against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The day should see BG pick up its 50th win of the year, and will be the final chapter in one of the best coaching careers BG has ever seen.

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