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FIU Downs Rivals, Thinks Big

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FIU Downs Rivals, Thinks Big

Success in 7s against men's teams gave the FIU team confidence in their more serious approach, and what they could accomplish.

Despite the fact that Florida International went into this past weekends game 2-0, and their opponents were 1-1, there was an air of great importance to the game.

You see, that 1-1 team was Central Florida, the DIAA national champs in 2013 and 2014, and the runners up this past spring. If FIU was going to be taken seriously, they needed to win.

And that they did, to the tune of 31-17, to take a commanding lead in the SIRC South.

“We feel pretty good about what we’re doing,” said FIU flyhalf Mateo Velazquez. “Practices have been going well - that’s what we were missing before - and we now have a good forward pack doing the nitty gritty.”

UCF was used to outmuscling opponents, but this time around FIU met them up front, and in fact were burned more from UCF’s pace out wide, as they punished aimless FIU kicking for two long range tries.

“We got off to a slow start,” said Velazquez. “And our disciplined killed us in the first half. We knew it was hurting us, and we kicked to them and they ran it back. But we got that under control.”

FIU was paced by Nick Daniel, who’s scored two tries, and got a big game from freshman center Jack Moore. But perhaps the biggest change for the team has been the work of Coach Ronny Suarez. 

Suarez joined FIU rugby in the spring and ran them through a 7s season where they finished 2nd in the South men’s competition, and almost qualified for the national club championships. The team is taking rugby more seriously now, said Velazquez.

“We’re training three days a week and we’re doing additional conditioning, which is something we didn’t do before,” he said. “We’re a lot more serious now - the culture is shifting.”

And the result is that numbers are up. They have a full B side. In a way, the victories are just icing on the cake.

But everyone knows icing is the best part.

The Golden Panthers are now midway through their season, with return engagements against Florida State, South Florida and then Central Florida coming up. The big one might well be October 24 at Florida State, with the nine-hour drive up to Tallahassee all part of the package. But a win there combined with South Florida losing to UCF this coming Friday should be enough to secure a playoff spot for FIU.


Below are the current SIRC South standings, and RugbyFL.com’s video highlights of the FIU v UCF game (if you don’t se the video, please refresh the page).  

South Ind South W L T Pf Pa Pd BT BL Pts
Florida International 3 0 0 113 39 74 3 0 15
Central Florida 1 2 0 39 55 -16 0 1 5
South Florida 1 1 0 29 25 4 0 0 4
Florida State 0 2 0 17 48 -31 0 1 1