The Blue Ox rugby club clinched the championship Sunday afternoon after edging out Viterbo University (3-0) in the Minnesota Division III tournament at the Eagan Community Center in Eagan, Minn.
The undefeated Blue Ox had defeated St. Olaf in the semi-final (26-11) match Saturday before advancing to the championship match against Viterbo.
“I was kind of tearing up a little,” co-captain Sam Prenevost said. “For me, senior year, to be at this level and have this championship happen has been best experience. This is going to define my college experience.
“I can’t even put words to it exactly yet. I was in so much shock. I couldn’t stop smiling and just knowing all the work that went into it and appreciating all the guys that put this team together.”
Before Saturday’s match against St. Olaf, the Minnesota Rugby Union surprised the team by announcing that the winner of the tournament would automatically qualify for nationals in the spring. The top two Minnesota teams will be invited to the invitation-only tournament in April. Nationals will be in Nebraska and the Blue Ox will be joined by the runner-up, Viterbo University.
As previously reported, the team would not be able to go to the national level because the Blue Ox is not affiliated with St. Thomas. But because of the growth of Division III rugby, U.S. Rugby has opted to create a tournament for all eligible Division III clubs.
“We have an opportunity and we need to capitalize on it,” co-captain Sam Glynn said. “We need the funds for it and we need to work on that now. We need jerseys, but we need to keep our perspectives straight. We have the opportunity to show ourselves on a national level.”
The team plans to raise enough money to pay for expenses needed to get the 25-man team to and from Nebraska and pay for hotel rooms. The team hopes the few thousand dollars needed for the trip will be raised through fundraising and the team’s sponsors.
The team will play two more “friendly” matches this fall against Carleton College and Gustavus College before looking ahead to the spring season.
Matt Linden can be reached at email@example.com