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2016/2017 Wrap Up and a Word from the Team President

The 2016/2017 season marked the first year in the Lone Star Conference after seven years in the Southwest Rugby Conference. The change in conference was deciding upon by a collaborative effort from the Rice Rugby board, team leadership, and input from coaches. So far, we are pleased with the opportunity to play in a conference that is more stable and gives us a better chance in national postseason play. 

Lone Star Rugby Conference is part of the NSCRO (National Small College Rugby Organization) and separated into two tiers with a promotion/relegation system. Rice plays in the higher level tier. The conference also fields an all-star team that travels internationally during the summer to compete against other clubs. Our Captain and fly-Half, Blake Bourne, was able to make the squad this year.

Our biggest challenge in the beginning of the year was replacing the key positions held by many of the seniors that graduated. For some of us, that meant filling in at roles that were new to us. We were able to attract several new players that picked up on the game of rugby quickly and played key roles for the team from the first game of the season. Our first road trip of the year was to a players’ clinic in Dallas hosted by the conference, which really helped accelerate the learning process for the new players. After a friendly 15’s tournament in Austin the weekend after that, we began the season with a quick start, defeating LeTourneau University 39-14 at home. Two weeks later, we were able to follow the victory with another win in Nacogdoches against Stephen F. Austin, 22-12. Afterwards, it seemed that luck was not on our side with regards to injuries as we lost our captain, Blake Bourne, and one of our best forwards, former baseball walk-on Max McElligott, for much of the rest of the year. Later in the year, in a very hard fought match, we suffered a close defeat to St. Edward’s University, 15-24. After being down 0-19 at the half, we nearly mounted a second half comeback, putting up 15 unanswered points until a 75th minute try was scored by St. Edward’s. The week after, in a hard fought match not done justice by the final score, we were defeated by Angelo State by a score of 0-36 (Angelo State eventually went on to become the undefeated conference champions, defeating opponents by an average of 54 points). Rice Rugby ended the year with a 2-5 record overall in conference play.

However, Rice’s season didn’t end with the completion of 15’s cup play. In April, we hosted a round-robin style friendly 7’s tournament with University of Houston and Sam Houston State University. We ended the day with a win over University of Houston and a loss against Sam Houston State. This gave many of our new players exposure to the style and pace of 7’s rugby as we prepared for the Lone Star Conference 7’s Blowout Tournament in Huntsville, TX, the following weekend. In the LSC 7’s Tournament, we were able to pick up a 19-17 win against LeTourneau before losing to University of Texas-San Antonio and Sam Houston State University. 

This year, Noor El Sonbaty, who hails from Egypt, and Jed Greenberg, who hail from the Deep South, were selected for the New Zealand Scholarship. Both of these players have been dedicated members of the team since their freshman year and have played multiple roles for the team on and off the field. Jed Greenberg, a sophomore from Jones College, began his rugby career as a wing before switching over to lock. Noor El Sonbaty, a junior from Will Rice College, also started off as a wing and now plays flanker. Different from previous years, Noor and Jed will be spending their days in New Zealand training at the Auckland Rugby Academy, where they will receive personalized attention and training while also being completely immersed in rugby culture.

Elections for leadership positions within the team were held in early April. Lane Toungate, a sophomore from McMurtry College, was elected as Captain, replacing Blake Bourne. He has previously served as the team’s Vice President (2016-2017). Jimmy Kim was voted as President, replacing Eric Estill. Jimmy is a junior from Lovett College and has served as Treasurer (2016-2017) and Vice President (2015-2016). Jed Greenberg was elected as Treasurer for the coming year after holding the position as Recruitment Chair.

Overall, it has been an exciting year for the club. The new conference has provided us with opportunities such as the players’ clinic and an all-star team, as well as new opponents with student body sizes more similar to Rice’s. After a 2-0 start, we faced many injury problems for a lot of our key players which posed a great challenge, but this also provided many of our new players with a chance to play quality minutes and gain early experience which I believe will help us get out to an even better start to the season next year. We are thankful for the board, alumni, and prior team leaders who have given us the opportunity to play the wonderful sport of rugby and lead our great club forward. Our goals for the coming year are not just to win more games but also build team membership and participation.

Jimmy Kim – Rice Rugby President
Class of 2018

2016 Wrap-up

The year 2016 finished up with a sizeable crew of seniors graduating and starting the next phase. All of them are great guys, guys who fought for the Club, for each other, through thick and thin. They continue to stay in contact with each other which is great news. However in the limited space and time I will mention a few of the standouts. I start with Greg Flores. Greg was the opposite of standout recruit. He was short, chubby, and slow. However, in the second side game towards the end of his first year he showed some real heart was some goal line tackles against much bigger guys. I was impressed.

Later, he found a home on the first team by doing what most short, slow, crafty guys do.. he moved to hooker. He became a solid player but it is what he did off the field that is most impressive. He served as president for two years and became are leader of men. He is now at UT law school and I look forward to what his future beholds.

The second person that I will mention is Kyle Guibbini. Kyle was the team captain and did everything and was everywhere on the field - tackling, running, catching, winning line-outs, and sometimes kicking. He was fast enough to play back and big enough to play forward. Somehow off the field he maintained a high grade point average in Engineer. In addition, he brews fantastic beer. This is the truest example of a scholar athlete.

Last but not least is Alan Grizzaffi. Alan was standout football player at Katy High School and was a very talented and effective rugby player. Unfortunately his senior year was cut short by another injury. Despite this,  he never stopped supporting the Club.