After an impressive run, the 2004 season for the University of Wisconsin Rugby Football Club has come to an end.
Falling Saturday to the eventual Division II regional champion Wolverines on a pitch in West Lafayette, Ind., the Badgers closed the books on one of its more memorable chapters in recent history. By advancing to the Midwest Final Four, Wisconsin posted its most successful season since 1992, when the team earned a bid to play for the national title.
“It’s the furthest we’ve come in a long time,” club president Ryan Meyer said. “We had some good recruits this year and it’s huge accomplishment for our club.”
With the season now just a memory, the players look back on the year that brought them their first Wisconsin Union title in three years.
“This is the furthest we’ve gotten since I’ve been here,” flyback and team captain Adam Kuen said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment that we kicked a lot of ass.”
For the seniors in particular, the strong campaign leaves them with something to hang their hat on after years of hard work out on the pitch.
“I’m really proud of our club,” senior Scott Martell said. “It was disheartening to lose to Michigan but it was a good year, a good way [for the seniors] to go out.”
After finishing 5-1 in its regular season schedule, Wisconsin bested Marquette and UW-LaCrosse to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. From there, a 38-5 rout of St. Cloud State gave the Badgers an opportunity to avenge their only loss of the season against UW-Stevens Point with the regional Final Four Berth on the line.
“We kinda started a rivalry with them over the past couple years,” Kuen said. “We knew we could beat them, we just had to go out and prove it. It was pretty intense going into the game.”
With tries from flanker Ryan Wohlrabe and center Oliver Bevan and a successful conversion by scrumhalf Mike Johnson, the Badgers mounted a late comeback, eventually triumphing over the Pointers 19-17 in penalty time.
After hanging strong with the Wolverines for much of the first half of play, the Badgers battled for several minutes deep in Michigan territory for a critical try. Eventually they managed to break through the Wolverine line, though the score was called back on penalty.
“That’s when the tides changed,” Martell said. “I could tell it was a momentum shift and I could see it in a lot of the guys that they were thinking the same thing.”
From there, Michigan gradually widened the gap, walking off with a 33-15 win.
After defeating the Badgers in the semi-finals, Michigan went on to trounce Bowling Green to earn a bid in the Division II USA Rugby Nationals. Ohio State will represent the Midwest in the hunt for the Division I crown after annihilating Purdue 53-5.