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Mount St. Mary's Embraces New Goals As They Start 2-0

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Mount St. Mary's Embraces New Goals As They Start 2-0

Mount St. Mary's gets the ball out against Thomas More. Betsy Tomlinson photo.

While we know that 7s and 15s are not the same and success in 7s does not necessarily translate to similar success in 15s ... but rugby is rugby and, as Mount St. Mary's is showing, confidence is confidence.

Coming off a win at the CRC 7s this past spring, a win few expected them to claim, the Mount has opened their 2023-24 15s season with two fairly impressive victories to mark their D1A season. MSM is one of three Rugby East teams to shift to D1A from NCR D1 this year, along with Mary Washington and Southern Virginia (both winners over the weekend). The move, as far as we can ascertain at GRR, is based on their desire to play more 15s, and more challenging 15s, and not play 7s for half the school year.

Building toward a D1A playoff in the spring accomplishes that. 

So that journey starts now and Saturday's 38-19 victory over a very good Thomas More side at a neutral site in Pittsburgh is one of the steps ahead for The Mount.

Head Coach Jay Myles started five or six freshmen, held out some starters, and the team suffered some injuries in the backline early, but depth is another piece of good news for the Mountaineers. 

"We’ve got a lot of young talent and we're looking for them to get the opportunity to get some action," said Myles. "So the future’s really bright. The difficult part for us was that we were struggling to just execute. I have nothing disparaging to say about Thomas More—John Fox has a great side and they do great work and their defense held really well, but it took us a while."

TMU's defense gave up two penalty tries, which is an indication of how hard they worked to defend their tryline, but was also a lesson on how to avoid stepping over that line.

The Saints certainly will learn from this, just as Mount St. Mary's is learning.

"We are better than last week," said Myles. "Our kicking game is starting to take root; our kick-chase and our defense was stronger. And we're starting to have more continuity and then what we want is to see more of that instinctual play come out of it."

With a solid scrum, after a few early hiccups, and a good team ethos, Mount is using that spring 7s success as a bit of a springboard.

"We held true to ourselves," said Myles. "It's a building piece from the spring. That family piece. The success we had in the spring was us staying together and the 7s success just created a good bond. Dealing with young men who have different backgrounds and different experience levels and it’s exciting they all work together and execute under pressure."

Much of that unity of purpose comes down to the coaching staff of Kyle Powers, Chet Rockwood, and Mike Keifer.

"They are driving our system, with Mike working really well with our second side, and we're seeing the dots connect," said Myles.

A Second Game

Mount St. Mary's Gold, their 2nd side, faced off with St. Joseph's, and the Hawks came away with a 26-15 win. No. 8 Brian Donahue scored two tries, prop Christian Sabella scored a try and was player of the game, and flanker Max Fisher also crossed for St. Joe's. Once again SJU got most of their points (18 out of 26) from freshmen.

But for Mount St. Mary's, the opportunity to play a very good D1AA side for their seconds was hugely beneficial. The Rugby East is very tough, and pushing on toward a D1A spring, as well, Myles knows he will need players.

"We're blessed to be a part of a conference that, week-in week-out, is a fight," Myles said. "The players have embraced it. Every weekend is an opportunity. And we're excited."