LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Big Ten Universities Champion Indiana University and third-ranked BYU, two teams in the midst of impressive winning streaks, will meet Saturday, April 22, in the Quarterfinals of the D1A Rugby Playoffs.
After winning a second consecutive BTU title, Indiana returned to the pitch in mid-February to play and defeat the Indianapolis Impalas. The 53-point win over the senior club side was really just a warm up for a four-game stretch of matches against legitimate collegiate opposition to get the seventh-ranked Hoosiers ready for a playoff run.
The first real test of 2017 came on the road against No. 6 Arkansas State. Indiana showed well in the contest, especially given the travel and level of opposition, but the team didn’t keep their legs under them in the final 20 minutes, and the Red Wolves ran away with a 46-23 win. The defeat would be the last game Indiana would be forced to play without All-American center Bryce Campbell. The senior was still on duty with the Eagles when his college club made the trip to Jonesboro, Ark.
Upon completing his time with USA Rugby’s Men’s National Team, Campbell returned to Indiana where the team would reel off three consecutive wins against the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame College and, most impressively, Rugby East Champion Penn State.
The trio of nonconference wins, especially the one over the Nittany Lions, should be a much-needed confident boost prior to facing a team much more talented than those Indiana bested the past few weeks.
BYU’s return to D1A Rugby saw the Cougars open the season with wins against Cal Poly and San Diego State, but those results were followed by a loss in Colorado to the Glendale Raptors, as well as a defeat in California to No. 1 Saint Mary’s.
The road losses caused little concern, however. As the weather began to warm in Utah, continuity amongst Head Coach David Smyth’s team grew. Return visits by Saint Mary’s and Glendale were vastly different than the February fixtures that ended in defeat for the Cougars. BYU avenged its loss to the Gaels with a 35-26 win in Provo, Utah, and nearly knocked off a stacked Glendale outfit March 25. The Cougars gave the senior club side that isn’t short on Eagles all it could handle in a 41-39 loss.
“March and April are traditionally our better months,” Smyth said of his Cougars’ improved form. “The weather can sometimes make for a slow start for us in January and February, but we work with that and use the early season as a platform to work off and get better.”
Jared and Joshua Whippy remain two of the most capable back-line players in the country for BYU. In the forwards, All-Americans Matt Jensen and Alex Vorster continue to lead from the front. Still, even with both quarterfinalists boasting impressive lineups 1-15, it will be tough to not keep an eye on a battle in the centers that will see Campbell line up against Calvin Whiting.
Like Campbell, Whiting earned time with the Eagles during the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship. The international teammates will now play key roles on opposing sides.
With fantastic players like Alex Dorrier, Jake Hidalgo, Tyler Sousley and Teddy Terezis surrounding Campbell in the back line, it’s been easier for the Hoosier backs to eat up most of the team’s headlines. However, led by mobile eight man Tyler Graham and big Dacoda Worth, the Indiana forward pack has had just as much to do with the team’s success in recent years – something BYU has noticed, as well.
“Indiana has had a great season and they’ve put up some very nice results,” complimented Smyth. “Their forwards go to work and with the back line that they have they can attack quickly and be very dangerous.”
The quarterfinal match between BYU and Indiana will kick off at 1 p.m. CT. Whichever team prevails will face the winner of Saturday’s game pitting Life versus Lindenwood.