Kutztown faces stiffest test yet, Iona takes another crack at Army

D1A Rugby: Kutztown faces stiffest test yet, Iona takes another crack at Army
Photo Credit: Kent Miller

BOULDER, Colo. – Rugby East is at its midway point, and some teams are eagerly seeking their first wins, while others are attempting to move up in the Canterbury D1A Top 20. Three matches are on the east coast docket, including an evenly-balanced matchup between Buffalo and West Virginia, and a top-10 clash involving Kutztown and Wheeling Jesuit.


No. 7 Kutztown vs. No. 10 Wheeling Jesuit
Kutztown and Wheeling Jesuit haven’t exactly played an evenly-weighted portion of their Rugby East schedules thus far. The Golden Bears, starting with tomorrow’s contest with Wheeling Jesuit, play three ranked opponents between now and a Nov. 7 visit to No. 8 Penn State.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have already had the difficult task of testing themselves against Penn State and Army over back-to-back weekends in September. After tomorrow’s battle on the campus of Kutztown, Wheeling Jesuit can take a slight sigh of relief with only Buffalo and West Virginia remaining on its schedule – both at home.

For Kutztown, this will be its toughest fixture to date, and a terrific prefix of top-10 competition ahead of its Oct. 24 game against No. 4 Army – which could decide which team reigns supreme in Rugby East. After failing to overtake Penn State or Army, the Cardinals would love to topple a fellow ranked team to improve their outlook toward the 2016 D1A Playoffs.

 

 Iona vs. No. 4 Army
On paper, Army’s visit to Iona looks like a match that could be decided by multiple tries. However, you can bet the Black Knights don’t feel that way.

Last season, West Point had the luxury of hosting the Gaels, but still couldn’t stifle Iona out of the gates. Instead, the Gaels jumped out to a 12-0 first-half lead, before Army eventually surged to a 26-19 win.

A gifted Army squad won’t intimidate Iona, which is coming off a match against a very skilled and physically bruising Kutztown side.

“We rate Iona as a good team,” Army Head Coach Matt Sherman said. “I think, first and foremost, they’ve been improving steadily for the last couple of years and are a threat to beat anyone on any day. I think that they are hardworking and scrappy, very tenacious, and they’re really trying to put pressure on the opposition, especially on the defensive side. We’ll need to do well to handle that pressure.”

 

Buffalo vs. West Virginia
In a contest between winless teams, the Mountaineers head to Buffalo hoping to claim their first Rugby East win. The Bulls, like West Virginia, have never won a match in Rugby East, but Buffalo joined the conference last fall, whereas the Mountaineers are in the middle of their inaugural Rugby East season.

Both teams have struggled to score points thus far. West Virginia has tallied a total of 18 points in conference play, while the Bulls have 10 points to their name. To be fair, both programs have had to navigate the most difficult portion of their conference schedules in the first month of Rugby East play, and have faced a combined five currently-ranked teams.