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February 22, 2024

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Rugby clinches MAC Championship with wins against Miami, WMU

The Bowling Green rugby team won its 34th-straight Mid-American Conference championship title this past weekend.

The Falcons defeated Miami in the semi-final round and Western Michigan in the finals for the title.

Head coach Tony Mazzarella knew BG had a target on their backs and needed to handle the pressure well in order to win.

“Our guys have risen up to face the challenge each year,” he said. “It is a tribute to the commitment each one of them personally accepts when they join this team.”

BG’s semi-final game against Miami, their oldest rival, looked to be a tough matchup. Low temperatures and stiff wind caused both teams to have to find a way to succeed in the elements. Tries by Sean McFarland and Frank Viancourt and a pair of conversions by Mike Powell took BG into the half beating Miami 14-6.

Miami quickly caught up to BG in the second half, cutting BG’s lead down to 17-13.

The Falcons went on to score 36 unanswered points against the RedHawks, winning 53-13.

Viancourt said he was impressed with his team’s offensive burst.

“The boys [BG] found a hole in their centers and we just started flooding through the gap,” he said.

The Falcons went on to face Western Michigan in the final game of the MAC tournament. The two teams faced each other earlier in the season, resulting in a 36-6 win by BG. The Broncos looked to avenge their previous loss and spoil BG’s championship hopes.

Both teams played stingy defense throughout nearly all of the first half. Neither team was able to score until the 36-minute mark of the half when BG’s Griffen Palmer scored a try from 25 yards out.

Western Michigan immediately answered with a try of their own and BG went into halftime with a 10-5 lead.

Two freshman, Ryan Steinmetz and Phil Bryant, produced three late tries for BG to pad their lead and begin to pull away from the Broncos. Steinmetz carried the ball, and three Western Michigan defenders, 15 yards for a try. Later on, Bryant turned a failed punt into a try, beating four Western Michigan defenders in the process. Bryant would score another goal-line try to boost the Falcons lead to 31-12.

Two late tries by the Broncos were not enough as BG went on to win 31-22.

Captain Alex Garnaut was impressed with his team’s ability to play through tough weather and pressure.

“When the score got tight, they [BG] just stepped it up to an even higher notch,” he said.

The Falcons finished the season with a 12-2-2 record and ranked 8th in the nation, although that ranking should go up after Tuesday’s new poll.

BG will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Nov. 22 to take on American International College in an experimental version of the “bowl” system in NCAA football.

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