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Four teams clog the top of the Empire Conference in DI college rugby, and two of those teams meet in a crucial clash Saturday in Upstate New York.
Stony Brook comes into this match 5-0 having just come off a long layoff to dispatch SUNY Binghmaton 51-5. Hosts St. Bonaventure sits at 4-0-1, having opened their season with a tie against SUNY Brockport, and been perfect since then (so, by the way, has Brockport).
“We had three weeks off with a bye and then King’s Point having to cancel, so I was worried about losing some momentum,” said Stony Brook Head Coach Jerry Mirro. “We felt like we were making really good progress and going good, and then the layoff. But the guys really made me proud the way they applied themselves and played well.”
“This is a really big game,” said Bonnies co-captain and flyhalf Kevin McCorry, who leads the team with 67 points in league play. “What’s been great about this league is how close the teams are. We’ve got four teams who could be in first, and that’s what makes it fun to play. This is the most exciting our competition has been in all the time I’ve been playing here.”
St. Bonaventure will be looking to make sure they do the little things right, said McCorry.
“We have to ruck well, kick to space, and everybody has to be bound on defense,” he said. “Clarence Picard and the rest of our coaches do a phenomenal job keeping us focused on the game plan and executing our game plan.”
Leading the way for Bonnies is McCorry and his co-captain Joe Sullivan. Together with assistant captains Tim Hanna and Tallon Moritz, they try to lead by example.
“Tal and Tim set the tone and get everyone energized,” said McCorry.
Flanker Evan Meister leads the team with seven tries and if “one of the best rugby players I’ve seen,” said McCorry. “Everything he does is done well and done right, even in practice.”
And wing Brendan Allman (six tries) is athletic and a finisher.
All of these elements are coming together, but Stony Brook is doing OK, too.
No. 8 Tom Kirnbauer sets the tone and John Feldman has played superbly at fullback, said Mirro. Stony Brook has a pretty good flanker, too, in Shane Wend, with Phil Salter rounding out an excellent back row. Prop Jimmy Sheridan has probably been the team’s best player.
With Stony Brook and St. Bonaventure at each other’s throats this weekend, Brockport and King’s Point have a chance to get some separation. Brockport, leading the league at 5-0-1, takes on 2-3-1 Syracuse at home. Meanwhile, King’s Point had been forced to miss three matches due to the Federal Government shutdown. Not that the shutdown is over, the US Merchant Marine Academy can play again. They ease back into game play against Rutgers, in New Jersey. Rutgers is 0-6.
It’s likely Brockport will remain in first after this weekend, and it’s likely King’s Point will win, and potential move up to 3rd. But the key piece of news in the Empire will be who wins Stony Brook at St. Bonaventure, as it will be that team, with a game in hand on Brockport, that will be the leaders’ chief rivals going forward.