Men’s rugby wrapped up their season on Oct. 22, finishing the season 3–3, but falling just shy of the Division II playoffs.
Despite a premature end to the season, Captain Lucas Donavan-Lafuente ’23 saw plenty of positives in his team this fall.
“Time and time again I’d ask new players how their first game felt and the most common response was that they didn’t really know what was going on but they had a blast,” Lafuente said. “I really want to focus on […] the fun of the game instead of a need to win. We always ended up playing better.”
Focusing on the fun of the game,the Panthers ripped through the first two matches of the year with pure domination, outscoring their opponents Babson and Union by a combined 60–10. The win streak did not last, unfortunately, as at the annual alumni game, which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the club’s founding, the Panthers hit a brick wall. The team lost to Holy Cross 37–7.
“The 50th Anniversary game was the most pressure I had ever felt in all my 15 years of rugby,” Lafuente said. “I felt I had failed the team. [But] scoring in the last few minutes reminded me through all the disappointment why I love this team. We never gave up.”
The season was not just defined by their wins and losses on the rugby pitch, however, as the team also came together for volunteer work in the Middlebury community. Kevin Ntoni ’24 hopes to expand this aspect of the team’s culture.
“I would like to see more involvement in community affairs as a team,” Ntoni said. “We already volunteer at the Charter House Coalition, but I think we can do more for the Middlebury community.”
The season also sparked a newfound relationship with the women’s rugby team. The men’s team held a cookout during the women’s game against Colby and frequently showed up to support the women’s team during their home games. The two teams hope to create a real and lasting friendship over their shared sport.
For next season, the Panthers hope to bring together a young, passionate core to build another successful team. Having shown flashes of brilliance this season, the team is full of optimism as they look to make a push for the national tournament, which they last won back in 2009.