The VSU rugby team hopes to put its club on the map this season, beginning with its first game against Georgia College on Saturday at 2 p.m.
When facing Division I schools, team captain, coach, and rugby club founder Derick Howard has been leading the club since fall 2010.
“We’re in our second full fall season, and our second matrix season will be in the spring,” Howard said.
Howard credits Austin Grant and Liam Gillis, who are both starters, with helping him get the club started as well as Travis Bird who helped build the club.
As a club, the members usually coach themselves. Howard coaches the forwards with the secretary of the club, Ellis Spratlin. Austin Grant and Jonathan Murtaugh coach the backs.
The rugby club will play against Auburn, Florida State, Georgia College and Georgia Southern in the upcoming season.
However, Howard doesn’t seem worried about playing against Division I schools and has much confidence in his team.
“We’d really want to go undefeated,” Howard said. “We think we can do it.” He also talks about a loss last year that he believes won’t happen again due to his team’s more experienced players.
“We’ve been beat by FSU pretty bad in the past. Now, I think we’ve got enough experience to at least do pretty well.”
With a roster of around 30-40 players, the rugby club seems to get stronger every year with experience. As seniors leave the team and graduate, freshman join with anticipation.
“One of my friends told me [Valdosta State] had a rugby team, and we used to play in high school,” Corey Ingles, one of the rugby club’s new members, said. “I want to play for the school.”
The club plays in the Georgia Rugby Union (GRU) which is part of USA Rugby South, which helps set the schedule for games during the season.
Even though the club is just officially starting their second full fall season, it hs been able to win tournaments such as the Shamrock and the 1st Annual Blazin 7s. Howard aims even higher for his goals this year.
“Our big overall goal is to go through the matrix season undefeated in the spring,” Howard said. “Hopefully we’ll go to the national championship.”