BOULDER, Colo. – A 5-0 weekend and a tournament championship at the Four Leaf 15s Tournament in New York made for a successful Saturday of rugby for Army.
In pool play, West Point defeated Seton Hall, Loyola, and American University by a combined 106-0 in matches that were limited to two 20-minute halves. The clean sweep of its pool produced a Semifinal and Championship Final match against Fairfield and Stony Brook, respectively. The relentless defensive effort continued, and Army blanked Fairfield, 47-0, before playing its best rugby on the day in its 70-0 shutout of Stony Brook to win the tournament.
The massive blowout of Stony Brook must have been even more impressive than the score line shows because Head Coach Mike Mahan was especially pleased with the effort.
“That was one of the best performances I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve been involved coaching here,” Mahan said.
The 200 minutes of rugby allowed Army to play plenty of reserves and test several combinations. Of the non-starters who saw significant playing time, the West Point coaching staff felt the play of junior center Andrew Yoon really stood out. Yoon, who was filling in for All-Rugby East inside center Andrew Fargo, played his best rugby in a Black Knights kit, and put himself in contention for first-team consideration.
The five victories were not against elite competition, but Army did what a top-five D1A team should do against inferior teams – beat them by a large margin. That was not the case when West Point faced Massachusetts March 3. In Army’s lone match of 2015 prior to the Four Leaf 15s Tournament, the cadets found themselves down, 16-14, in the second half before scoring the final 14 points of the game to win, 28-16.
Although disappointing, the result against UMass seemed to have woken Army from its winter slumber by the way the team took the Four Leaf 15s by storm. The successful Saturday in New York should build some confidence and momentum for the team as it is in the midst of Navy week. The two military service academies meet March 28 on the West Point campus.
Nerves will surely be running high as Army prepares for what many perceive as the team’s most important match of the year, but at least Coach Mahan’s vocal cords will receive a bit of a rest.
“I definitely don’t have to do any rah-rah stuff this week,” Mahan said of his team’s focus and intensity while preparing for Navy.
A victory over Navy would be an especially proud moment for the program after beating Air Force in October. Given the consistently competitive form the three military service academies maintain, going 2-0 in in the annual contests is no easy feat.
“It would be huge,” described Mahan. “No matter how we’re doing during a season, playing the fellow service academies is very important – particularly playing Navy, which is probably more important than playing Air Force.
“It’s a goal of ours to finish with a victory over both service academies.”
Army is sure to leave it all on the pitch Saturday against Navy, but the cadets will have to refocus and recover in a hurry regardless of the result versus the Midshipmen. No. 2-ranked Saint Mary’s will pay its own visit to West Point April 4 as part of a brief east coast tour that includes a match against Dartmouth.