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Losing Games Honed Virginia Tech for Playoff Win

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Losing Games Honed Virginia Tech for Playoff Win

Virginia Tech vs Tennessee from November 19. Will Fagan photo.

Virginia Tech's journey back to the NCR D1AA semifinals is a lesson in losing.

That's not to be glib or negative. It is instead a lesson in how playing difficult games against difficult opponents can make you better, if you have the right attitude. The Hokies are the only DIAA team in the Rugby East, and finished the fall in last place, having lost every conference game. Yet, defending NCR D1AA champions as they are, Tech got a spot in the 2022 quarterfinals.

There weren't any naysayers about that decision—the Hokies were assumed to be pretty solid. But they were also seeded low enough to draw Tennessee, one of the best DIAA teams in the nation, in the opening round.

After falling behind early, Tech stormed back to win that game 38-34. Led by captain Hunter Danesi's three tries and sparked by Paul Cardoni's try the Hokies stormed back from 22-7 down to win.

And playing all those tough DIA and NCR D1 teams got them there.

"Playing tough defenses allowed the game to slow for us," said club president and scrumhalf Fernando Anduaga. "Playing with teams that could play a full 80 at full pace helped us play until the final whistle."

Virginia Tech did get a chance to show they could score and win with some non-conference games, beating James Madison, Lander, and University of Virginia. But scoring tries against Navy and Queens, and losing to Southern Virginia 33-12 gave us just a glimpse of what they could do.

It wasn't that the losses hid their quality (although it did); it was the losses that honed their play.

"Playing these hard teams improved our field awareness, knowing what to do in each zone of the field," said Anduaga. "It helped with our physicality, helped us realize our weaknesses because they’d exploit anything we left open, and helped us gain confidence playing against higher competition."

And all that fueled their rebound against Tennessee.

"We knew we could come back if we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot and played our game."