It's scrum time at John Carroll

Rugby drawing a crowd in first sanctioned year


April 24, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Is John Carroll becoming a rugby dynasty? The sport, in its first year of being sanctioned by the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, has quickly become highly popular at the school.

John Carroll has about 50 students participating on varsity and junior varsity teams and part of a third one, quickly built a rugby field and is drawing large numbers of fans.

And the Patriots went 4-0 in MIAA play this season.

"It's all about rugby here," John Carroll athletic director Larry Dukes said. "It's just great. You've got to be happy when the participation is so high. Now, it's also grown a population of followers."

Four teams competed in MIAA rugby this year - John Carroll, Calvert Hall, Loyola and Archbishop Spalding. Dukes said this was a provisional season, and he's hoping next spring will have championship game.

The Patriots finished their season last week with a 27-7 victory over Loyola. But they're not done.

John Carroll began playing the sport last year by competing in the Potomac Rugby Union, which features a number of club teams from throughout Maryland, including from private schools in the Washington area such as Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep, and will continue to play in the union.

The sport became so popular so quickly at John Carroll that the school put together a rugby area on its back fields. The rugby field is comparable to a football field in size and has gotten plenty of use.

"It's a mixture of different athletes from different sports that have come to play," Dukes said. "It really does mesh a lot of different talents. It's a hodgepodge of things."

Dukes said he believes the MIAA is the first high school association in the country to sponsor the sport. John Carroll principal Paul Barker, a native of New Zealand and big fan of the sport, was the driving force in getting the MIAA to sanction rugby.

Barker found success starting a program at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, and that was still fresh in his mind when he came to John Carroll in 2001. He made a presentation to the MIAA to sanction the sport, and it was accepted.

The conference needs one more school to play rugby for it to officially become a championship sport.

"I knew it was a good thing for kids and something that would give me a nice point of contact with the kids and a change of pace from my duties as principal," Barker said.

In the Potomac Rugby Union playoffs, the Patriots will be starting as the top seed in their division with a game Tuesday.

Chris Powell is John Carroll's head coach, and Tony Del Puppo, Ashley Letton and Sean Devoy serve as assistants.

Junior Adam Devine is the team's captain. Other leaders are seniors Paul Muehlemkamp, Anthony Tapp and Charles Sergent.

Mustangs on the go

Joe Dunch, who is in his 12th year as C.M. Wright's softball coach, said this year's lineup is the best he has had at the school. The numbers support that assertion. The 15th-ranked Mustangs are off to a 12-1 start.

C.M. Wright, which is 7-0 in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference, has won eight straight games since an eight-inning loss to Glen Burnie. The Mustangs haven't been blowing teams out, but keep coming up with ways to pull out victories, like they did in a 2-1 win over Rising Sun Wednesday.

Junior catcher Katie McCauley tripled in the tying run in the sixth inning, and the Mustangs pulled out the win with the help of walks in the eighth inning. McCauley also helped with a diving catch late in the game.

"We've got a handful of hitters, and we're probably as strong as we've ever been top to bottom in the order," Dunch said.

Also, the Mustangs have several younger players who are playing well. Sophomore first baseman Lisa West is the team's leading hitter with a .378 average. She also has scored a team-high 14 runs.

Junior third baseman Kaitlyn Neal (.351) and sophomore center fielder Cynthia Foster (.341) are among the other top hitters.

The pitching of sophomore Chelsea Funk also has played a big role in the team's success. Funk (9-1) keeps the Mustangs in every game.

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