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Rugby team uses February to prep for season

Benji Garland celebrates after the 2022 National Championship. From Gonzaga Rugby Flickr.
By Luke Dean–

Rugby, a worldwide sport, has made its way all the way from England to Eye Street. With February approaching that means something different for everyone. For approximately 170 students, the beginning of February means that rugby season is underway, and the highly demanding tryouts begin. 

Gonzaga College High School’s rugby team consistently competes for a national championship. Gonzaga has three rugby teams: purple (varsity), black (developmental varsity team), and the freshman/sophomore team. Gonzaga’s rugby team won four national championships over the last 10 years coming in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. According to Gonzaga College High School’s website, “The Eagles look forward to playing one of the toughest nationally competitive schedules in the country, with games planned against nine pre-season nationally ranked Top 25 teams.” Of course, the players make the team, but Gonzaga has had an outstanding coach for the past 15 seasons to guide these young men on  Eye Street.

Coach Peter Baggetta, center, works with his team during the 2022 playoffs. From Gonzaga Rugby Flickr.

As Rugby Coach Peter Baggetta, also director of the Center for Academic Excellence, looks around his office, the walls are covered with pictures of the team and none of him. As he looks to his right and points out the 2018 national championship picture, he sees his favorite part of being a coach. 

“[I love] seeing the joy on the players faces when they accomplish something that they set off to do,” Coach Bagetta said.  

 Coach Baggetta describes rugby as “the ultimate of being a man for others.” 

 He explained this idea further. 

“Everybody is involved, and you always have to look out for your teammates,” Coach Bagetta explained. 

Rugby is one of the most popular sports at Gonzaga, and having so many students who want to play makes it possible for Gonzaga to compete at such a high level. 

“[I am] always excited about bringing together a group of people, in this case young men, to work on something together,” Coach Bagetta said.

Each year there are many students who try to take up rugby for the first time. 

Coach Baggetta urges new players to “go out and make lots of mistakes because that’s the only way you learn.”

 In addition, he wants new players to “be themselves and express themselves.”

 This year, Brian Henneberry, senior, put aside his lacrosse dreams to take up rugby. He consistently participates in the workouts after school in the new weight room. Through these workouts, Henneberry has “built comradery with the team.” 

“Playing the game, really just getting to know the game, has helped me a lot,” Henneberry stated. 

Henneberry has high hopes for this season and wants to be a “national champion.” On Jan. 27  Henneberry laced up his cleats, stepped on the field and gave it his all to try and make these dreams come true. 

Other players, like  Benji Garland, rugby captain, have been playing for years; Garland, senior, begins his fourth season. Garland has hoped to win a national championship this year after falling short last year. 

“Our goal as a team for the season is to be the most dominant team in the country,” Garland explained.

The season is a long journey, and the tryouts are just the start, but the beginning of the season is of utmost importance.

“Tryouts and preseason lifts are very important to us because that is the spark that becomes the flame that is our team culture and the relationships we have as a team,” Garland explained. 

Each year the rugby team goes on tour, and this year they will be traveling to France. 

“The rugby team becomes a second family […]; we get a lot of time to learn about each other,” Garland said.

Rugby is one of the most demanding sports at Gonzaga College High School.

Lots of hours of preparation go into building a successful team, said Coach Baggetta. 

Once rugby season begins, there are no weekends off. This is the kind of tone that is set that enables Gonzaga’s rugby team to be as successful as it has been over the past 10 years. Tryouts wrapped up on Monday, Jan. 30 and varsity purple’s first game is on the Feb. 25. With another season underway, hopefully the eagles can be just as successful and win it all.

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