By Autumn Collins, Staff Writer
Anticipation and excitement built up in the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) Men’s Rugby Team as they made their way to Portsmouth, Rhode Island earlier this month. After the anxious five-hour ride, three vans packed full of electrified Beavers joined 73 other teams on the six playing fields that was the Beast of the East, the world’s largest college rugby tournament.
Stepping onto the playing field that sunny day started the beginning of a long and enduring weekend that they could not have been more fired up about. “Being my first time, it was really exciting to see new teams from all different divisions,” said UMF sophomore and team member, Vincent Malinauskas.
Coach Woody Hanstein was overjoyed with the team’s effort and spirit throughout the tournament saying, “Our veterans were spectacular, but even more of a thrill was seeing newcomers step up and shine.”
UMF kicked off their first game against the Babson College Beavers of Babson Park, MA at 8:40 Saturday morning. “Our fowards put in a great effort,” said Malinauskas. “[Babson] barely gained any ground.” Both teams played to their full abilities and kept the score nail-bitingly close. In the first half UMF stayed on top 10-8 with tries from team captain, Mark Garrido, number 13, and Nathan “Mo” Schultz, number 10. During the second half, Babson retaliated and scored the matches closing try, ending the game at 15-10.
After their first defeat, UMF watched as their second game opponents played Babson and pummeled them into the ground. But UMF was not shaken by the competition. “We were nervous but also pumped,” said Malinauskas. “We just had to go out there and give it our all.”
The Beavers yearned to go up against the second team, the Springfield College Spirits of Springfield, MA. Malinauskas said, “Going into the second game we all had the ‘do or die’ feeling. We knew that if we didn’t step it up, we’d be knocked out.” During the match, Springfield scored the first try of the game, and another after which UMF answered with two tries of their own from Frank Makuch, number 8, and Matt “Bigs” Bigelow, number 7. With the game tied 14-14 and only four minutes remaining, the crowd loudly and excitedly cheered on for our UMF ruggers. In the end, Springfield scored another try, ending the game, 19-14.
For UMF, the tournament was over. Though the Beavers suffered two immensely close losses and zero wins, Hanstein could not have been happier about the effort UMF put into their matches. He said, “Watching that UMF-Springfield match was truly one of the greatest treats I’ve had in the 23 years I’ve been coaching rugby at UMF.” Malinauskas said, “Sometimes even if you’re playing good, everything doesn’t always go your way, and I think that’s what happened.”
Just because the tournament finished didn’t mean the weekend was over. Watching from the sidelines, spirits stayed high Sunday, as UMF motivated their fellow Maine teams: UMO, Colby College, and Bates College.
Hanstein commented on attending Beast of the East again saying, “So will we go to Beast next year? We’re already counting the days.”