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Several DI conferences opened play this weekend giving us a small taste of what is to come. Air Force started Rocky Mountain play with a solid 86-24 win over Utah State while Albany and UVA picked up surprise victories in their respective conferences.
Air Force opened up conference play with a convincing victory over Utah State. The Zoomies return seven starting pack members from last season and slotted in former Air Force football player at lock. Henry Hill, who is also a former high school rugby national champion from Indiana, adds some experience to an already experienced pack.
The forwards dominated this game from the onset and the backline took advantage of time and space to break things wide open. Trystin Hanson, in his first career game playing rugby, scored four tries from the outside center position. Ryan Johnston, another freshman added a try for the Zoomies.
“I think once he learns the game he is absolutely going to be a force,” Air Force coach Denny Meredith said of Hanson. “His ability to laterally move and then accelerate is a skill you cannot teach. He is a natural talent.”
It was a solid combination of youth and experience for Air Force. The Academy team will look to the senior leaders to get the young, talented athletes up to speed.
“We have some guys with solid experience and you couple that with a couple new guys that are impact players, we are filling the holes that we needed to fill from guys that graduated last year,” Meredith added.
The newly formed Liberty League saw one of the first upsets. SUNY Albany went winless in the now defunct ECRC last season, yet pulled out an impressive 19-12 victory over Stony Brook.
Mt. St. Mary’s won the Chesapeake Conference last season and looked to open this season on a positive note. However, UVA shocked the Maryland score to the tune of a 20-17 victory. UVA went 2-6 last season and is clearly improved. Mt. St. Mary’s graduated a number of players will have some maturing to do throughout the season. With James Madison taking a beating at the hands of Iona, this conference seems to be wide open at the start of 2017.
Next week there will be a full slate of games in nearly all conferences. The college rugby season is officially underway.