Kings Point Making a Point
Kings Point Making a Point
The US Merchant Marine Academy has some unfinished business, and judging by their start to the season, they are ready to take care of it right now.
Last year, the USMMA at Kings Point rugby team started league play 4-1, but then the government shutdown forced them to forfeit three games in a row. They then lost two very close away games, and ended the season in the middle of the pack as a result. After that many of the top junior players left to spend six months at sea as part of their education.
So a team that finished September with high hopes and a lot of confidence, ended the season wondering what might have been.
Now those juniors are back from a semester on the waves and, said Head Coach Ali Nazir, haven’t missed a beat. And so it appears, given that Kings Point won all four of their warmup games and are now 2-0 in the Empire Rugby Conference.
“We had a good preseason,” said Nazir. “We played four games before a lot of other teams are in school. I think that helped us. In early games you’re always making mistakes - knock-ons, offside penalties - and the games are a little more down to luck. We were still guilty of those mistakes in our league games, but we didn’t make as many, and that was the difference.”
Nazir said he felt the preparation for his team team helped them be more polished than Brockport, a squad he expects to be better each time they play. The USMMA beat Brockport 31-10 and then did the same, 31-12, to Binghamton.
“Binghamton are huge and as they learn to use their size they’re going to be touch,” said Nazir.
Size is an issue for Kings Point, and we don't mean the size of the student body, although at just over 1,000, that's small too. The USMMA trains young men and women to serve in commercial shipping (along with a Naval Reserve commission) or in the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or other areas of federal service. As a result, the players generally aren’t big because a big body is rarely comfortable on long-haul ocean voyages or on Coast Guard vessels or submarines.
So Kings Point usually relies on fitness, technique, and toughness.
“We really work the basics,” said Nazir. “We don’t get caught up in fancy plays. We have some schemes, but really it’s about doing the basics well. Every practice we have is about raising the rugby intelligence and making players better at rugby. We feel that if we’re a better group of rugby players, we can win games.”
So far so good. Captain Daniel Ardis has the team playing as one, and senior Austin Smith is the kind of guy who brings his lunch pail to work and just gets down to it, providing an excellent example to his teammates. In the forwards, Greg Stanczuk has been the leader.
This weekend, Kings Point faces Colgate, new to the Empire and DI.
“I am always wary of teams moving up because they have a chip on their shoulder,” said Nazir. The teams from the northern parts of New York and New England are always tough and hard-nosed. They can play in any type of weather. They are big and mean, and we’re going to have to play well and be the fitter team to win.”
Also 2-0 is Stony Brook, who beat Colgate by only eight points in Week 1, and then hammered Syracuse last week. SBU takes on the aforementioned Binghamton, who are 1-1.
Fordham and Syracuse, both looking for their first victories, play in Syracuse in the third match, while 1-1 Brockport have the weekend off.