Clarence Picard knows his club may struggle at times in its second year in powerful Rugby East, but he’s confident the Bonnies are on the right path.
St. Bonaventure opens league play at 7 p.m. Saturday under the lights at Marra Athletics Fields Complex vs. visiting Penn State, ranked 11th in preseason national polls in Division 1A.
“I said it all offseason, but we could be twice as good as last year and our record might stay the exact same,” said Picard, now in his 10th year as head coach. “We have a better understanding of how we need to prepare and what we need to focus on, but nothing replaces game time when trying to develop teamwork and cohesion.”
The Bonnies roster features 19 freshmen, seven sophomores, five juniors and 10 seniors.
“Although the upperclassmen are smaller groups, they are very tight knit and have provided strong leadership,” said Picard.
“We have some great depth, but because we have so many new players we must work extra hard integrating them into the team, getting them up to speed not only on the game plan, but the demands of playing Division 1A rugby and balancing their academic commitments.”
Penn State is one of four squads the Bonnies will play that are ranked in the top 12 nationally in preseason.
SBU is at fifth-ranked Army Sept. 19, at eighth-ranked Kutztown Oct. 3, and hosts 12th-ranked Wheeling Jesuit Oct. 10. Games vs. Iona (Sept. 26), at West Virginia (Oct. 24), and at Buffalo (Nov. 7) round out the league schedule. The Bonnies will host Notre Dame (Ohio) College in a friendly match Oct. 30.
Returning starters for the Bonnies include seniors Jordan Farrant, Phil Jackling, Pat Hogan, Dan Dillon, Paul Schulick and Nick LaColla; juniors Luis Carpio and Norm Lewis; sophomores Alex Alonso, John LaDuca and Joe Vazquez; and graduate student John Sullivan.
Freshmen Christian Artuso and Eamonn Matthews are scrum halves “with impressive high school résumés and give us an exciting combination for the future at such a critical position,” Picard said.
Matthews was a high school All-American and Artuso spent a gap year playing club rugby in Italy.
“It will take a big effort from our leaders, both young and old, to keep the team together as we go through some growing pains, but once things click we will have more talent at our disposal than we ever have in the past,” Picard said.
For game times and more information about the Bonnies, visit their Rugby East webpage.
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