The Scranton Norsemen clinched the fourth and final playoff seed in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference with a decisive win over Drexel University this past weekend.
This is the second time in four years that the team has appeared in the Division II Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference playoffs.
The Norsemen traveled to Philadelphia to face off against the Drexel Dragons. If Scranton won, then the team would advance to the playoffs; if not, their season was over. “To be honest, after losing to Bloomsburg, I wasn’t too sure of our chances to win and make playoffs,” junior Blaise Casillo stated. “It was a do-or-die situation for us, and we played one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of.”
In front of a crowd of past players and The University’s alumni that had come to support the team, the match began. The two sides seemed equal, making successful runs and tackling hard. However, after 25 minutes, the Norsemen took charge of the game. With the team breaking off huge runs against the Dragons’ defense, junior Casillo shook off two defenders as he ran along the sideline, opening the scoring for the Scranton side.
Shortly thereafter, sophomore Mike O’Dell ran in for a second score, and seniors Ciaran Lynch and Mike Dombrowski scored two more tries to end the first half. The Norsemen’s stout defense shut out Drexel, and the score at halftime was 24-0.
“We finally clicked after a tough season,” sophomore forward Sal Nunziata said. “Having a lot of younger guys in our lineup, it was great to just find a good rhythm of play. We were able to pull off what other teams in the league didn’t believe we could do.”
The second half began with the Norsemen continuing their aggressive style of play.
While Drexel attempted to gain some kind of momentum, the Norsemen were quick to shut down any attempts to create offensive attacks.
While playing staunch defense, the Norsemen continued to have major success on offense, using their physicality to smash through gaps in the Drexel defensive line. Seniors John Phelan and Matt Kelleher scored three more tries, and Lynch added another to his tally.
First-year flyhalf Kevin Bronander was also able to score, putting the Norsemen ahead 55-0 going into the last ten minutes of the game.
Finally, the Drexel side was able to muster up an offensive attack and scored with four minutes to play.
Nevertheless, the Norsemen answered almost immediately with a try from senior Tom Queally, eliminating any hope of a comeback for the Drexel Dragons. Sophomore Chris Sheridan was 6/10 on conversions for the match, putting the final score at 62-5 in favor of Scranton.
Senior captain Lynch was thrilled about the team’s performance that day.
“It was great to see so many alumni come out and support us in our best win of the season. It’s a real testament to the tradition that this program carries with it,” Lynch said. “This win on the road has given us great confidence for the playoffs this upcoming weekend.”
The Norsemen travel on Saturday to Mechanicsburg to compete against Rowan University.