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Men's rugby team to compete in spring tournament

For the second year, the men's club rugby team will compete in the opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) tournament at Salisbury University.

The team qualified for the tournament during its fall season, which consisted of league games in Division II of the Virginia Rugby Union against the Virginia Military Institute, Radford University, Mary Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond finished third in the league and will advance to the tournament, which is played during the spring.

Team president Brandon Beckstead said a narrow victory against Radford was the defining moment of the fall season.

"It was a tough game, and there were a lot of injuries on both sides," he said, noting that Richmond was the only team to defeat Radford, which finished the season in first place.

As it did last year, the team, which is coached by Carl Schmitt and assisted by Patrick Benner and Matt Wilson, will open the tournament in the quarterfinal round against Salisbury University in Maryland. The game will be played at Salisbury because all matches are played at the higher seed's home field. The team lost to Salisbury in last year's quarterfinal match and was eliminated from the MARFU tournament.

This year, though, Beckstead said the team was expecting to win against Salisbury, a team that won the national championship in 2004.

"That's the mindset our team needs to win this year — expecting a victory and working toward that goal," said junior Ryan Corken, the team's vice president.

Senior Captain Frank Hoder said of the game, "It will undoubtedly be 80 of our hardest-fought minutes, but we have the ability and experience to do well this year provided we stay healthy." He said he was abroad first semester when the team won its tournament berth, so he is 'really excited to have a chance to play in [the tournament].

To prepare for the game, which will be played on March 24, Beckstead said the team of 30 men had been training hard.

"The team's really excited," he said.

Corken said practice would be important to tournament success.

"The keys to winning this year are having practices with a consistent 25-30 man turnout and that are very skill and fitness intensive," he said.

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The tournament will consist of eight teams and be played in a single-elimination format. Beckstead said he expected that key players in the tournament would include Corken, senior Austin McPherson and captains Matt Hunt and Frank Hoder, also seniors.

"Every player on the field is important in rugby, as are the players off," Corken said.

"It's a game where people get easily injured and fatigued, and having a strong B-side team will keep us strong all 80 minutes."

Hoder said that the team's "toughness is going to be a key aspect. We have consistently played teams that are bigger and more physical and have been able to win with confidence and refusing to back down."

"We have a good team," Beckstead said. "We've got a lot of seniors and juniors that have been playing for a long time."

To prepare for the tournament, the team practices three nights a week and will play several games, the first on Feb. 11 against Albright College at 2 p.m. They will also play teams including Mount Saint Mary's University and Virginia Tech to prepare.

"Our coaches are working hard to get us ready," Beckstead said. "We want to win"

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