ELSAH, Ill. – Principia College imposed its will on the rest of its conference peers at the Gateway 7s Conference Championship Oct. 26.
The host Thunder Chickens were never truly tested on their way to a perfect 5-0 championship run. Their team defense was relentless, only yielding three total tries on the afternoon and shutting out St. Louis 28-0 in the Championship Final. Principia’s captain, Trevor Marunde, attributes the club’s dominating performance to a selfless style of play.
“Our ability to play together, our chemistry and team cohesion really helps us on the field,” the senior flyhalf said. “Our coach stresses having the metal capacity to play to the final whistle.”
The Gateway Conference, like all Division II conferences, is in the thick of its 15s schedule. Some DII clubs don’t have enough roster depth or adequate training hours in a week to build a legitimate sevens side. Principia’s performance at the Gateway 7s shows it is obviously not faced with those issues.
“We take both aspects of rugby very seriously,” said Marunde. “While we practice for 15s we always keep that sevens mentality in mind. We incorporate the speed and spacing from sevens into our 15s style of play.”
Marunde even feels there are benefits to training for sevens while simultaneously training for 15s.
“At times it gets difficult because we switch back and forth from 15s and sevens, but it also helps us because we’re able to learn to react to different things that might come up in a game,” the captain said. “Also, as our ability to switch back and forth from the two styles has grown, so has our ability to overcome adversity.”
Much of the credit goes to Principia Head Coach Ward Patterson. Marunde and the rest of his teammates appreciate not only what their leader has done to improve the rugby club, but to advance the lives of his players.
“He doesn’t just teach the game of rugby; he teaches young men how to become better men through the avenue of rugby,” he said. “Everything that Ward does is meant to make you better as a rugby player, but also as a person in life.”
The Thunder Chickens are off to a strong 5-1 start to their 15s season and undeniably have a potent sevens side. Although the Gateway 7s did not meet the criteria of seven participating conference teams to be an automatic qualifying tournament, Principia is looked at as a frontrunner to receive an at-large selection for the 2013 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship.