Rugby wins another MAC Championship

Roger Mazzarella and Roger Mazzarella

Say “back to back” 38 times and you have the number of times Bowling Green rugby has won the Mid American Conference.

This is the fourth time in five years BG and WMU have met in the MAC Championship. BG has won the MAC every year since 1982. Each year it gets tighter, as evidenced by BG’s mid-season conference losses as teams like Cincinnati, Louisville and WMU get better.

“The forward domination by BGSU was unreal. Scientifically, it did not make sense. Western had to have 200 more pounds of muscle on the forwards,” said Louisville head coach Frank Viancourt.

The Falcons defeated Louisville 41-14 in Saturday’s semifinal to set up the Western rematch. The Falcons had lost to both Louisville and Western in the regular season.

Every year it gets harder to keep this streak going. We are just walking around with a huge target on our backs. I hate close games. I can’t calm down until it is 40-0. This one was as tight as it gets, though. It took a last-second penalty kick to win the game.

The historical significance of the streak isn’t lost on the players either.

“None of us want to be known as the squad that ended the championship streak,” senior captain Bob Kiskin said. “Win a national championship one year and lose the MAC the next? No, that wouldn’t be cool.”

Nonetheless, the Falcons have been trying to mesh together as a team that lost 27 players to graduation. That has led to a lot of playing time for the squad’s freshmen. BG had six freshmen on the field by the end of the final game. Nine freshmen made up the playing squad of 23.

Freshman scrum-half Ryan Niemiller made the winning kick, who was just as happy as anyone to see the game come to a close.

“All I could think of was that if I made the kick I could go home,” Niemiller said.

Niemiller lives in Clayton, North Carolina — about an hour from the national playoffs in Greenville. Ironically, Niemiller shanked a kick this spring that cost his Clayton high school team the North Carolina High School Championship. 

“(Head coach) Tony (Mazzarella) laid out a very detailed plan Saturday night on keeping the ball away from the bruising WMU forwards and dealing with their cross kicks from their fly-half,” vice-captain Sam Ciancutti said. “We knew we had to swing the ball out to the backs and just gas their forwards to death.”

I have to hand it to forwards coach Brad Stott. He had his guys pushing Western all around the field. We completely dominated the scrums and mauls.

The Falcon ruggers will move on to the National Collegiate Championship in Greenville, North Carolina, Nov. 23-24. In addition to being the defending National Champion, the Falcons have been a national finalist 12 straight times.


Roger Mazzarella is the operations manager for the BGSU rugby team.