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Bobcats: Honor still stands amidst rugby team loss

Mazama Field proved to not provide a home court advantage to the Bobcat Rugby team earlier this month.
The National Small College Rugby Organization awarded Central Oregon Community College the right to host the NSCRO Region 4 Challenge Cup Championship event on March 28-29.
COCC Rugby Club was undefeated in League play for fall 2014 and is currently seeded #1 in the Regional Championship Playoffs to be held at COCC in Bend OR.
The championship was a four team event with each team playing one match per day. The winning team qualified for the Challenge Cup National Championship on April 18-19 at Founders Field in Pittsburgh, PA.
The COCC Rugby club is currently in it’s third year of existence and after they went undefeated they qualified to play in the championship, coach Woody Bennett decided to take it further and apply to host.
After the Bobcats were granted hosting privileges, they approached COCC administration for funding which was granted, allowing COCC to host the national event.
In the first game of the weekend, the Central Oregon Community College Bobcats lost 15-35 to the University of the Pacific, taking them out of the running for first place. University of San Francisco went on to beat Point Loma Nazarene University, earning them a shot at winning. The third game victory of the weekend would seal their spot in third. After a close game, the Bobcats lost by a hair. Point Loma Nazarene University took third with a 2 point difference of 31-29.
With a few hiccups the team faced prior to the game, they gave it their all, according to Bobcat athletes.
“I feel like we could have won if we had a full roster,” said Alex Esselstrom, COCC rugby player. “If we didn’t have injuries or if we had everyone we had in winter [we could have won].”
Plagued with injuries and a lack of players left COCC at a disadvantage compared to their competitors. Not having a full roster in any sport leaves little room for changing out players when they are tired and needing a break, according to Esselstrom. While other teams had players to spare, the Bobcats were left to keep playing the same players the entire game and weekend.
“We went into the competition after a long week of training feeling positive. I think one of our biggest issues was losing people prior.” Exclaimed Levi Penter, captain of the COCC team. Neither Penter nor Esselstrom were expecting how hard the weekend would be going into it.
“It was hard to play California teams when we were used to playing local teams. They play to a different caliber than us.” Esselstrom explained. He also stated that they don’t play the same caliber as the rival teams. “They play a few bars up and on a different level.”
“They were really good teams.” Penter stated, “They hit hard, and are very well disciplined.”
The final game, much like COCC’s game against Point Loma Nazarene University, came down to a very close game. In the end though, there could only be one winner. With a score of 19-17, University of the Pacific won it all. This win also qualifies them for a chance at four-team National Challenger Cup Championship in Pittsburgh later this month.
They may have lost, but that is just a small loss for the successful season the team has had. The team expressed so much pride and honor to have hosted and had the opportunity to compete at this level.
“Everyone played really well and stepped up their game.” Levi Penter stated, “Though harder than we expected, I’m happy with how everyone did.”
That happiness showed this weekend as they proved to have been excellent hosts and left a good impression on other teams as well.
“It was truly amazing to have so much support from our fans as well as COCC and everyone involved,” said Michael Jimenez, the captain of University of the Pacific’s team, “COCC really made us feel welcome and we appreciated being treated like athletes and not just a ‘club sport’.”

Liz McKeown | The Broadside
(Contact: emckeown@cocc.edu)

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