It’s crunch time. Less than 10 days separate the clash between Texas and Notre Dame in the Varsity Cup.
This is a huge step for Texas Rugby. In 2011, The Longhorns missed a shot at Division-II Nationals with a heartbreaking loss to Texas State in the final game of the year. The next year, Texas came out on a mission, winning the Southwest Conference in undefeated fashion, leading to a berth in the D-II Sweet 16. Davenport University taught the young Longhorns a lesson about varsity level rugby, sending them back to Austin with a brutal 87-0 loss.
Two years later, Texas is back on the national stage to take on Notre Dame in the first round of the Varsity Cup. The Varsity Cup is the highest-profile Collegiate Championship tournament in the United States, boasting household names like Cal, BYU, and Navy. Texas joins Clemson, Utah, and long-time rival Oklahoma as newcomers to the competition this year. The 12-team, single-elimination tournament begins April 12 when the Longhorns travel to South Bend Indiana to play Notre Dame. (Full schedule available at varsitycup.us/schedule/)
First-year Head Coach Christopher Hopps leads a surging team into the Varsity Cup, hot off a 40-17 win over Texas State in the SWC Championship Game. Hopps said, “The Varsity Cup is the most important thing on the calendar, and everything we’ve done this year—physically, mentally, tactically—has been in preparation for this.” Hopps and his dedicated staff have put in countless hours to make sure that the Longhorns are completely ready for the challenge they face.
Texas is battle-tested after a brutal spring schedule that includes hard-fought losses to Army and Wisconsin. In light of the losses, Coach Hopps said, “A good team will always lose to a good program. This year, we have gotten the chance to test ourselves against a lot of good programs, and that’s the exact same challenge the Varsity Cup poses for us.” The ‘Horns had a full schedule, even playing games on back-to-back games on two separate occasions.
“I feel like our schedule has us prepped and ready to go no matter who we play at this point. We’ve tested ourselves against some of the best teams in the country, and we know we can play with anyone,” offered Junior Taylor Hayes. Hayes is one of many offensive weapons for the Longhorns, who have shown the ability to pile the points on teams.
Captain Peter Hyams leads from the second row, consistently leading the team in tackles and meters gained. Freshman flanker Reed Hogan has burst onto the scene, capping off a great SWC season with a hat trick in the Cup Final. Sophomore Matt Young has shown incredible speed and a taste for the try line, scoring a try in nearly every match and a hat trick of his own against Wisconsin. Freshman flyhalf Carson Youman has matured into a defensive stopper in the midfield, and fellow Frosh reserve back Steven Taylor has dominated with the boot, slotting all of his kicks against Wisconsin.
The Longhorns are eager for another chance to prove themselves on a national stage and to take on another powerful program in Notre Dame. The captain in burnt orange is confident, saying, “We’ve been looking forward to testing ourselves in this tournament all year, and we’re working hard to get physically and mentally prepared for it. Obviously, it’s going to be a really tough challenge playing against one of the best teams in the country, but we’re confident and we’re ready to show people that we’ve got what it takes to compete on this stage.”
The Longhorns battle the Fighting Irish at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the University of Notre Dame Rugby Pitch just west of the Hammes Bookstore on campus. Go to http://rugby.nd.edu/about/directions/ for directions to the pitch.