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UMass hosts regional tournament

Amherst hosts the four best Division II club rugby teams next Saturday, as the Northeast Regional Tournament begins this weekend and concludes next weekend.

The No. 25 Massachusetts club rugby team hopes to be participating in those matches, as opposed to watching them, as it plays a quarterfinal match on Saturday, boasting the top seed in the tournament.

Following an upset of the No. 1 team in the country last weekend and a New England Club Rugby Union Championship, the Minutemen are poised to claim their next title and a bid to the National Championships.

“The boys are really focused, and they’re looking forward to continuing their run,” UMass coach Al Baker said.

Last Saturday, No. 25 UMass (8-1) handled Middlebury, 34-3, in a one-sided match that saw the Minutemen hold the highest scoring team in the division (42 points per game) to its lowest point total of the season.

UMass avenged its most lopsided defeat in recent memory; a 110-0 loss to the Panthers last season, when the Minutemen recorded their most uneven victory in five games.  

Regardless of UMass’ victory over the Panthers, Middlebury will have an opportunity to vie for the Northeast Title as the second seed.

The tournament pits teams from three conferences against one another for the chance to move on to the National Championship Tournament. The eight qualifiers earned their spots by virtue of their success in their respective conference tournaments and the credentials of each conference.

The Minutemen earned their bid to the Northeast Regional Tournament on Oct. 24, during the NEC quarterfinal matchup against Bentley. UMass won, 17-12,  scoring twice in the final 20 minutes of the game to top the pesky Falcons and advance to the semifinals.

Two victories last weekend including a 22-12 win over Boston University ensured UMass a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

The Minutemen will await the arrival of Southern Connecticut (7-1), which hasn’t lost in its last four matches. The Owls play a fast-paced game, and enter the tournament having beaten Iona on Sunday. The team comes in scoring 31.5 points a game, while giving up 13.12.

The Owls finished second in the Metropolitan New York Rugby Conference only to Stony Brook, who finished atop the conference. The Seawolves took out the Owls, 27-19, in a match played on Oct. 4. Stony Brook is the third seed in this weekend’s tournament, and will take on the Terriers.

The New York State Rugby Conference brings two squads to Amherst in fourth-seeded Buffalo State and seventh-seeded Hamilton College. Each team won their respective brackets (Empire East and West), and came out with close victories in the NYS Tournament to earn their spots.

Buffalo State edged out Rochester, 12-10, while Hamilton topped Hobart, 15-7. With identical records, the Bengals beat out the Continentals in seeding by way of a higher season point total (169-163).  

Buffalo State will stay in New York to host Vermont while Hamilton will travel to Middlebury.

Daniel Gigliotti can be reached at dgigliot@student.umass.edu.

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