So what’s that old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try again? Well that may ring true with The Claremont College Rugby program. Not that they aren’t successful, quite the opposite the program continues to emerge as one of the small school national powers. However, when you have that much success, the expectations start to become championships. Last year The Claremont Colleges fell in a great and close game to Mount St Mary’s University (MD) in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) title game.
We aren’t going to go into the history or The Claremont College rugby program (we did that last year and you can read it here). What we are doing is looking how what has Claremont College learned from last year’s run, and how are they going to try and secure that NSCRO National Championship this weekend?
Claremont College is back in the NSCRO Final Four (seeking the Men’s Champions Cup) and defeated the national power in Cal Maritime Academy to earn that Final Four spot. So come April29th The Claremont Colleges will face Xavier University in the semi-final out at Rugby Town USA (Infinity Park in Glendale, CO). With a win there The Claremont College will be able to play for a National Championship on April 30th against either Tufts University or LSU-Alexandria.
So to learn more about how The Claremont Colleges plans to make this the year we were able to chat with The Claremont Colleges Head Coach Scott Bracken. Below is our interview.
The Rugby Republic (RR): Coach, the boys came very close last year. How did that motivate you and your team this year?
Scott Bracken (SB): It motivated us because we really felt that we could have won last year. We lost by a single try in the final and were determined to find that extra seven points this season.
RR: As far as the boys, did they work the off season to prepare for this year or do anything formal?
SB: Overall our athletes committed themselves to becoming stronger and more fit. They also spend much more time studying film, becoming students of the game and increasing their rugby IQ. We had a few players spend some time at academies such as Tiger Rugby and Atavus which benefits everyone.
RR: How many new players do you have this year and how many returning? How has that impacted the continuity of the team?
SB: We had a good number of returners and several first year players who have made an impact this season. We had some injuries early which forced many of our younger players to play significant roles during conference play. In the end, the injuries turned out to be a blessing as we have 30+ players who have started this season.
RR: Have you done anything differently this season with your approach to your team’s play? Are you going to do anything different these weeks to prepare for the Final Four weekend?
SB: Even though we made our way into the Final last season, this past off-season we looked at everything we were doing to make sure we were doing the things the best way possible. We did a full assessment. In many cases we were happy and with others we made some adjustments that we feel have benefited us.
RR: Have you been able to scout any of the opposition? How do you feel your team matches up with the other teams in the Final Four?
SB: He have very limited intel on Xavier, our next opponent. We may make an adjustment or two based on our opposition but nothing too significant. I do not know much about the other two teams either and it does not matter at this point. We must get through a good Xavier side before worrying about the other teams.
RR: What are going to be keys to your sides' success the Final Four weekend (without divulging any strategies?
SB: Xavier would not be there if they were not a good team. We must perform at a high level in order to beat them or any other team. If we are able to stay healthy and perform to our standards, I think we have a good shot at victory.
RR: Who are the leaders on this year's team and what do you need from them that weekend?
SB: Our Captain, Sean Pyne has been excellent this year both in his play and leadership. We have a number of leaders on our team. For us to be successful, they all need to perform and lead from the front.
RR: How important is the mental preparation for this week and what if anything will you do to prepare mentally?
SB: We have emphasize mental preparedness and toughness throughout the season. This will continue. We have dialed back the physicality of our training sessions but the mental demands we place on our athletes never stops.
RR: How has this season helped in preparation (the games and oppositions you faced)?
SB: We played a Division 1AA conference schedule this season. We did this in order to compete against higher level competition to prepare for the playoff run. We lost a single match to a very good Grand Canyon University and were successful against the other conference teams. Although the score did not always reflect it, each match was tough and we are better for having had such keen competition.
RR: Does making these runs at nationals put a strain on the program's finical status? Or does the club plan for this in advance, or get any support from the Colleges, alum etc?
SB: It does strain the finances, no doubt. We are constantly in fundraising mode and we have solid backing from many alums and significant donors. The colleges do help a bit as well. We still need to raise a bit of money come playoff time but our constant fundraising efforts helps to take the edge off.
RR: Anything you want to add?
SB: Our athletes and coaching staff are very excited for the final four in two weeks. We are working hard and are the healthiest we have been all season. As I said before, Xavier is very good and it will take a great effort to beat them.
This weekend The Claremont Colleges will have another shot at an National Championship. They do have to over come two quality sides to do it, but if you know Coach Bracken and their program you know that they are as prepared as anyone for this task. And in this particular case we are 100% rooting for boys from the Claremont Colleges. It will be a great to see another national titile find its way back to California, but also a reward for the hard work thier side has put in to get back into this position.