In Fort Worth, Texas, last weekend, the young Highlands University Vatos finished one win short of reaching the USA Rugby Sweet 16.
In a big upset, the Vatos defeated Texas’ No. 1 Austin Rugby Club 13-7 before losing to Texas’ No. 2 Dallas, 25-10 in the semifinals.
A 43-22 consolation loss for third place to Missouri No. 1 St Louis Rugby Club landed the Vatos with a fourth place trophy. The top three of eight regionals advance to the national final 16.
“We surprised a very good Austin team with speed and courage,” said Vatos player-coach Mando Herrera. “The subsequent losses were a result of stronger, smarter, and better trained teams who kept the ball away from our fast backs. As basically a college team, finishing fourth in the West with over 50 Men’s Division 3 teams shows promise for next year. The young fellows have been in the arena of winners and high level rugby. Hopefully, they will want to return. It requires fitness, training, and time management.”
“Not reaching the national finals was a bit disappointing, but not a surprise,” added longtime adviser Dick Greene.”We have a longer path to earn it. There is no guaranteed or poorly earned success in the hard sport of rugby. Nevertheless, it is always cool to see Las Vegas and NMHU in the same arena with the big boys like Austin, Dallas and St Louis. I want to help the kids to learn to be good at what they do and compete with the best. Real success is quietly earned and not self declared.”
Raiden Ruiz, Justin Wagner, Tony Garcia, Chris Riding and Ryan Means performed well for the Vatos who coaches say will need to significantly improve their scrum and other close contact skills to reach the national finals next year.
The 2010-11 season begins in late August, and the club is open to new members, Greene noted.