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Vienna Raising Hand in Virginia

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Vienna Raising Hand in Virginia

Vienna and West End pack down. Photo from YouTube.

Virginia rugby is getting going and we're already seeing a few teams come to the fore.

While it's no surprise that Fort Hunt has started strong, it is interesting to see Vienna start to emerge as one of the stronger programs in the area. 

Head Coach Kendall Erickson is running a program that started with Under-7 players about nine years ago. Erickson, who coached in Utah for many years, realized when he arrived in Virginia that starting with the very young was how you build a program. 

"Ten years ago Vienna High School Rugby was not on the map," said Erickson. "Our players and coaches have worked hard this past decade and we now have a strong Vienna HS Club Varsity team, JV team, two Middle School teams, Youth teams, and a good High School Girls team."

In 2017 several Vienna middle-schoolers helped the Rugby Virginia middle-school team win the middle-school NIT in Charlotte, NC. Then a year later an all-Vienna team won it again, and in 2019 tied Charlotte and lost on kicks.

Those players are now high-schoolers with plenty of rugby experience against teams from all over. 

"Every year—except this past year of COVID mess—we play top teams Fort Hunt, Gonzaga, Charlotte, Raleigh, and also have played other strong teams like Xavier, Richmond, Clayton and others," said Erickson.

This year Vienna played a scrimmage against Fort Hunt and lost 27-12, which, in retrospect, wasn't a bad result at all. They then beat Great Falls 43-19 (Great Falls is a club that has several Gonzaga HS students who were looking for more playing time), and then beat the B-side of Xavier HS (NY) 63-10.

And finally, last week, Vienna beat West End 26-14 despite missing five starters.

Vienna gifted West End a try relatively early on when an attempt to prevent the ball going into touch resulted in the rock landing squarely in West End hands, and off they went.

The teams continued to battle back and forth, and neither was able to break through until Vienna No. 8 Christos Kalpaxis's powerful runs started to break through defenders. The more he ran the more Kalpaxis was able to gain ground and he scored two tries to put Vienna up 14-7.

Junior prop Tristan Carney opened the second half by surging 20 meters to score Vienna's third try, and with junior flanker Dylan Liskey and sophomore center Andrew Evan playing excellent defense, Vienna looked in control. West End did get one back, but Vienna responded with a well-worked, multi-phase try of their own with most of the players touching the ball before senior wing Damien Zaman scored in the corner to make it 26-14.

Kalpaxis was player of the game.

This followed on from the week before where Liskey was again a defensive force as well as trouble with the ball in hand, and outside center Robert Silva scored three tries.

So all of this is a way to set the scene for this weekend, where Vienna is lined up to play Fort Hunt. The Warriors have won two straight games by shutout, beating Xavier's A side 33-0 and a very capable Richmond Strikers side 55-0. Fort Hunt Head Coach Dale Roach enjoyed a superb defensive effort from lock Grant Radoski, flanker Cooper Costanzo, and center Thomas Figley, but he knows this weekend will be tough.

"Vienna are a good, organized rugby team," he said. "They had a very good game against Xavier B."