The Univeristy of Memphis rugby team returns to Memphis for their final home game against Ole Miss after going 1-1 in the two-game series in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Team president Joel Witcher said the team was successful against the Vols and must carry on to face the Landsharks.
“We went up against a squad of seniors and kept it very close,” Witcher said. “No one has a perfect game, and we are still figuring out our kinks, but I am honestly very proud of how did.”
The Tigers played two games in Knoxville and ended the first game with a loss 41-13, but the Tigers were leading the Volunteers 13-7 at halftime. The Tigers won their second game with a try in the final minute, making the final score 26-22.
“Looking at some of the opponents UTK has played, I would say we put up a better fight than anyone else,” Witcher said.
The Volunteers beat MTSU and Mississippi State with a combined 135 points without allowing any.
Head coach Steve Swatzyna said his team showed an overall good performance in Knoxville and started well. But injuries and fatigue took effect, and the team fell short.
“Ole Miss is another good, solid team with big players,” Swatzyna said. “They are about even with us, truthfully.”
The Tigers have played eight games and scored 190 points and allowed 133. More than one-third of those points allowed came from Tennessee. The Tigers have averaged 23.750 points and allowed an average of 16.625. The coaching staff collectively agreed they want to allow less points.
Witcher and captain Musa Banat will not be playing in the Ole Miss game. Swatzyna said despite injuries and the vacancy of the team’s president and captain, the team should still do well and should hold their own.
“We’ve got guys to fill in the gaps,” Swatzyna said. “I think if we can play a strong, hard-nosed game we can win by one or even two tries.”
Swatzyna said unless they absolutely have to cancel because of weather they will. But if there is inclement weather, the game will happen.
Ole Miss is the final Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC) opponent the Tigers will play in the Spring 2019 season, and sophomore wing Jalen Jackson said he is excited for the game.
“I feel really confident going into this weekend and so is the team,” Jackson said. “I think we will do whatever it takes to get this win.”
Jackson said it is important for his team to win and everyone must step up for the pride and the future of the program. If the Tigers beat Ole Miss, they could secure the bag by securing a seed in the SCRC. The SCRC voting will begin next week and this game could be the determining factor.
“We kept it close against Tennessee, and this Ole Miss game could make us look like a good team for the conference,” Jackson said. “We are going to go down, and we’re going to constantly get better after this game and we aren’t going to allow this opportunity to disappear.”