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Bowling Green’s program has been defined by the play of two guys the last couple of years: Nick Viviani and Rocco Mauer. Viviani was a go-to player for BGSU coach Tony Mazzarella from the second he stepped on campus, and Mauer emerged as an upperclassmen on the 7s pitch.

Viviani is now a Chicago Lion, and Mauer is working towards a spot on the 7s National Team for the Pan-American Games this fall. Though Viviani drove the bus that got Bowling Green to the national semifinal last season, Mauer was sidelined much of the year by injuries and Eagle selection.

The good thing for Bowling Green is Mauer, Viviani and loose forwards Kyle Bonnek and Tim Moody are about the only guys not returning from last year’s squad.

In the case of Viviani, who controlled the Falcon attack from the flyhalf position, there’s an experienced player waiting in the wings.

“Replacing Nick Viviani is Nick Mussara, who’s been kind of like the heir apparent in waiting now for like three years,” said BGSU’s Roger Mazzarella.

“He played b-side flyhalf, but then he saw a lot of a-time because he would get put in at just about every position in the backfield, so he’s a very versatile guy. Is he Nick Viviani? No, but are we going to be hurting because he’s not there? Not so much.”

Returning playmakers include Max Narewski and Dominic Mauer. Narewski was inconsistent at times as a freshman last season, and he seemed a bit like a deer in the headlights at the Final Four in Palo Alto, Calif., but he’s played in some high-level games since then, including 7s Nationals with the Chicago Lions.

Mauer has spent the last two seasons in the shadow of his older brother, but those who’ve seen Dominic in action know he's a very good player in his own right. He’s fierce tackler and a bruising runner, and he’ll captain the Falcons this season.

Also back is Dan Grime, a hard-working flanker who has become a coach’s dream.

“He was a military kid. Knew about rugby because he used to come watch his uncle play, but hadn’t played a game until he got here and was on the a-side within two weeks,” Mazzarella said.  

Bowling Green has never lost to defending national champ Davenport and hasn’t fallen to Midwest East rival Indiana in at least four years, but if they’re going to keep those streaks alive, the shoes of Rocco Mauer, and especially Viviani, need to be filled in a hurry.