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The Tri-State semifinals took place this weekend, with both undefeated teams winning at home. Fairfield continued its dominance over Tri-State opponents, having swept the southern division and handing RPI a 58-10 loss Sunday. The Northern champions, Vassar, struggled but overcame a determined Sacred Heart squad, 48-34.
Vassar jumped out to an early 14-0 lead thanks to tries from Prop Adam D’Agostino and flanker Kenta Hasui. Sacred Heart cut the deficit to 14-5, but freshman fullback Joe Simon and hooker Alex Voynow added a try apiece to expand the lead to 28-5. A product of Santa Monica rugby, Simon has come in and made an immediate impact for the Brewers. His pace and counter attacking ability have been a big part of the Vassar offense this season.
Sacred Heart refused to give in and successfully worked itself back into the game. The visitors added two tries before the half, and one right after the break to cut the Vassar lead to 28-22. “They have a big squad. They were strong runners, and they were organized. They took too many penalties and it ended up putting them on the back foot,” Vassar coach Tony Brown told Rugby Today of Sacred Heart.
Vassar stemmed the momentum thanks to a try from No. 8 and captain Geoff Matthes. The powerful forward rumbled his way under the posts for a converted try. Vassar added two more tries from Matt Brown and Simon to put the game away. To Sacred Heart’s credit, the team never stopped fighting, adding two more tries to make the game 45-34.
Flyhalf Nich Graham added a penalty at the death to seal the victory. The four-year player leads a strong Vassar backline with his leadership and strong kicking ability. “Nich had a great day from the kicking tee. It was really difficult windy conditions and he just nailed it,” said Brown.
Brown was happy with the victory but believes his team still has things to improve upon. “We need to improve our defensive performance if we are going to be competitive,” he said.
Vassar will travel to Connecticut next weekend to take on a potent Fairfield squad. The Stags moved to 9-0 Sunday with another blowout victory, averaging a staggering 63 points-per-game this season.
Fairfield hosted the Albany-based engineering college and got off to a strong start in the first half. With the wind at their backs, the Stags went up 29-0 before RPI was able to garner any points. The first half ended 34-5 in favor of the hosts. “We knew that RPI would come at us hard and we were prepared for it,” said Fairfield coach Ben Kelley. “We had a great first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half really set the tone for us.”
Going against the wind in the second half, Fairfield continued its dominance, adding 24 more points for a 58-10 victory. “I am just immensely proud of the boys for what they have achieved, winning nine games in a row,” added Kelley.
Kelley and assistant Marc Downes are first-year head coaches at Fairfield. They contribute much of their success to the team’s hard work on and off the field.
“We are fit. That is the bottom line. At the beginning of the year, several of the seniors came to me with a will and a want,” said Kelley. "Hooker Anif McDonald, flyhalf Alex Cucchi and captain Ryan Forgione have exhibited tremendous leadership all year leading six in the morning training and fitness sessions."
The championship game will kickoff at Fairfield at 1 p.m. next Sunday. Vassar is looking to go to its second consecutive sweet 16 while Fairfield is searching for its first ever trip to Nationals.