Falcon rugby returns to Midwest Tournament

Chris Rambo and Chris Rambo

Take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Bud Selig had pulled the Phillies and Rays aside following their respective league championship series victories and told them the World Series would not be played until the week before Spring Training. That they would have to wait around a full three and a half months before going toe-to-toe for the ultimate prize. In a sense, that is the situation confronting the BG rugby team as they prepare to resume the Midwest League Tournament this weekend, nearly five months after dispatching Northern Iowa in quarterfinal action. The Falcons will host Indiana in the tournament semifinals tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship match to face whomever emerges from the first semifinal between Ohio State and Minnesota. The tournament champion will receive a berth in the National Collegiate Championships which are slated to begin on April 18. All games this weekend will take place at the Bowling Green Intramural Fields. After rolling through their fall schedule unblemished, the Falcons routed Northern Iowa 52-3 in the Midwest quarterfinals on Nov. 8. Following that weekend, the tournament was put on hold until the arrival of spring based on the somewhat silly presumption that the weather in late March would be more favorable than the middle of November. This weekend’s matches will serve as a test to see which of the four teams has best kept their intensity and focus over the course of the prolonged layoff. For their part, the Falcons hoped to expunge any rustiness that may have accumulated over the winter with a series of road matches in preparation for this weekend’s tournament. BG bulldozed their way through the majority of these tune-up matches, winning most of the games handily en route to a 6-0-1 record, with major contributions along the way coming from Tony Brown, Dan Brandenstein and Ross Barrett among others. Brown, who held down the No. 8 man position while Rich Hines was out with a broken leg, has seen his game explode thus far in the spring and has without a doubt become one of Tony Mazzarella’s most reliable scorers. ‘Over the past few months Tony [Brown] has just taken his game to a whole other level,’ Mazzarella said. ‘He has definitely set the tone for us this spring.’ Brandenstein has taken over the fly half position for Nick Viviani, who tore his ACL in the fall, and has proven to be an apt replacement; successfully kicking 14 out of 15 conversion attempt in a win over Georgia Tech a few weeks ago. ‘Danny [Brandenstein] has done a terrific job of switching from fullback to a position [fly half] that he is not entirely comfortable with,’ Mazzarella said. ‘He is as close as we can get to Nick at fly half.’ The Falcons have also seen a welcome infusion of talent in the form of Barrett, a freshman from Detroit. Due to the lineup reshuffling that the Viviani and Hines injuries caused, Barrett has seen his playing time dramatically increase and has thus far failed to disappoint. ‘Ross has been a terrific addition to our regular rotation,’ Mazzarella said. ‘He will provide us with a spark off the bench in case we need a quick sub or if somebody gets hurt.’ However, while those three players will undoubtedly play a key role in the Falcon’s chances this weekend, Mazzarella knows that their efforts will be for naught unless the entire team comes out prepared and ready to play. ‘The last week or two we have not been as focused as we need to be,’ Mazzarella said. ‘We can’t afford to come out flat this weekend or we’ll be in trouble.’ When asked if his team gained some measure of confidence based on the fact that they beat both Indiana and Ohio State in the fall Mazzarella replied: ‘It’s so hard to tell how a team will come out and play us. Ohio State and Indiana could both be completely different teams than when we faced them in the fall. We just have to come out focused and intense on our end, and we will be fine.’