The Saint Mary's College Men's Rugby team finished an excellent 2004–05 season with an appearance in the "Sweet Sixteen" of the USA Rugby national championship tournament in April. The ruggers also were rated No. 10 in the nation by one of the most authoritative rugby rankings, goffonrugby.com.
The Gaels' progress in this year's tourney marked the second season in a row that they advanced to the round of 16. They were knocked out, however, in a 21–10 loss to Ohio State, which was ranked No. 4. In a consolation match that followed, No. 2 Air Force, which featured three All-American players, defeated Saint Mary's 39–29.
Despite those losses, the season was one of accomplishments. The Gaels went regular 13–3 prior to the NCAA tournament, and they put together a six-game winning streak. They won the annual contest hosted by Saint Mary's, named the Pat Vincent Cup after the SMC coach who guided the team from 1968–83.
The reason for the team's success, says Katherine Gernhardt, coordinator of club sports for the College, is no mystery.
"They know what it takes to do well and they're willing to do it,"says Gernhardt. "They love what they do, and it really comes through." For some, the Gaels' impressive record was surprising.
"Last year, we lost several seniors and captains,"says Dan Tabacco '06, scrum half for the team. "This year we weren't expected to go far or be as dominant as we were. But Evan Bariault came back for his fifth year and he was captain. He gave us a solid foundation to build on."
With this year behind them, the Gaels approach next season with both enthusiasm and determination. The team will have 10 returning starters, Tabacco says, and they're setting high goals.
"If we're not a final four team, I won't be happy," he says. "And with how hard I see the guys working this summer, I think it's going to be possible."