The feeling of deja vu crept over the sidelines of the Spartan rugby team. Another semi-final game, another disappointing loss. Castleton had been firing on all cylinders going into the matchup against Stone Hill College. The Spartans were coming off a dominant victory in the quarterfinal round and were looking to keep their undefeated record in tact. Castleton jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first half of the game but would find no more success on the scoreboard. A quick rebuttal by Stone Hill, and the score was tied at the start of halftime. The second half began to expire and the Spartans fell victim to another score, now falling to a 6-3 deficit. But as the last five minutes ticked away, Castleton relived the same anguishing loss it did a year before.
“We were the two highest scoring offenses in the league, but it was all defense all day,” captain Kevin Chui said. “It was a long, long, tiring day.”
Spikey Mike Baldino agreed.
“It was a complete battle. We were always fighting,” said Baldino. “They would drive down the field; we would stop them. We would march back down on them, and they’d stop us. Everyone put it on the line.”
The scrums moved end to end throughout the game, but with an injured Alan Page, Castleton had to change its tactics. With Page’s injured ankle, the Spartans were now losing scrums, so they could wheel around and steal the ball on the other side.
“It changed our scrum from being strong to a little weaker. We had a tactic called ‘Crabbing’ to get the ball back,” said Page about the strategic scrum maneuvering.
The loss was the Spartans’ second consecutive semi-final loss. Although Castleton’s New England Rugby Football Union postseason hopes are over, the rugby team still has a spring season. While the spring semester doesn’t have a postseason, the team will still play events like the Beast of the East tournament and Scorpion Bowl.
“We still play tournaments to keep us in shape, to bring the team together so we’re doing something year round,” Page said. “It’s just as meaningful as the fall season. We have tournaments, and we play division one, and division two schools that are ranked pretty decent.