The University of Memphis Tigers Rugby Club has played through half of their calendar season and are set to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for the NashBash, a rugby tournament, to begin the second half of the season.
The Tigers (2-1) have only played three games in nearly seven weeks of the season. Musa Banat, the captain of the rugby team, said he is proud of his team and their performance in the season so far.
“There is an outstanding amount of determination on this team,” Banat said. “I say this with complete sincerity and complete genuineness — we have a determination factor that, personally, I have not seen on any other team.”
The Tigers began the season with a 15-14 loss to the MTSU Rugby Club at Memorial Field. One week later, Memphis played beat Mississippi State “Maddawgs” Rugby Club and 35-12 in Memphis.
The UofM Rugby Club went four weeks without playing an opponent. Unforseen circumstances caused two scheduled opponents to compete against Memphis. Southern Louisiana University Rugby Club could not host Memphis because of field complications, and the University of Mississippi Rugby Club did not play the Tigers because of heavy storming during the anticipated game time.
Memphis ended their gameless streak by playing the University of North Alabama. The Tigers beat the Lions 38-12 in Memphis. North Alabama defeated Memphis 27-20 previously. Memphis has averaged 28.7 points per game and has allowed 13 points per game on average.
Fullback Turk Wigley said the team is eager for the opportunity to play in another tournament. Wigley said the team has strong chemistry that could give them an edge over other opponents.
“Our team is less like a team and more like a family,” Wigley said. “We are willing to go to war with each other on the field day after day.”
NashBash will be the first time the Tigers will not play a game at Memorial Field this season after they have played three consecutive home games. The Tigers are scheduled to play three games in a 24-hour period.
Head coach Steve Swatzyna said the Tigers will play a select side team comprised of distinguished players from Nashville and surrounding areas. The second game is scheduled against MTSU. The Tigers previously played in the Battleship Rugby Invitational Tournament and were victorious.
“I think we can win the whole tournament,” Swatzyna said. “I want Middle Tennessee State because we can beat them, and I want to get that loss avenged.”
There have been several players injured during the season. The Tigers have fewer injured players in past years because of having a month of recovery after playing Mississippi State. Joel Witcher suffered a concussion in that game and has since been cleared to return. Grant Caldwell suffered a gash above his eye and has had the stitches removed and is cleared to play. The team lost their scrumhalf AJ Wilson to a cracked rib in the UNA game and is not expected to return for the season.
When the Tigers return from Nashville, they will still have three opponents remaining. The Tigers have scheduled a game against the University of Tennessee, the University of Mississippi and Lindenwood University. The Tigers beat UTK 23-5 last year and have prepared to travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 30. The following week, the Tigers will play their rematch against Ole Miss after the cancelation of the original game back in late February. The final game of the season will be in St. Charles, Missouri, to play Lindenwood.