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Preview of Gonzaga varsity purple rugby team ahead of nationals

This+years+team+photo+in+front+of+the+Capitol+Building.+Photo+courtesy+of+Hugo+Rodas.
This year’s team photo in front of the Capitol Building. Photo courtesy of Hugo Rodas.

While it may not be the most popular sport in the United States, rugby has certainly grown into one of the most popular sports at Gonzaga, especially with the amount of success the team has seen the last two decades. Over that span of time, the varsity purple rugby team has won five high school national championships and is looking to win its sixth next week when the team travels to Elkhart, Indiana to compete in nationals.

After winning last year, Coach Peter Baggetta and the rest of the team are hungry for another one in order to establish themselves as the premier high school rugby team in the country. And they seem favored to win. The team finished this year undefeated domestically with their only losses coming in close fought games while the team was in Argentina during spring break. With much of the team staying the same from last year, Coach Baggetta is very confident that this team has what it takes to go back-to-back.

“It takes talent and hard work to win a championship,” Coach Baggetta said, “but in order to repeat, it takes talent, hard work and most importantly character. Being able to stay hungry and humble is what is going to drive this team forward, and one of our goals this year, as a team, has been to ‘elevate the legacy,’ meaning that not only do we want to be the best team in the country this year, we want to be one of the best teams that this country has ever seen. That drive to be the best is what makes this team special.”

While this team has the same goal in mind as last year, they are not the same team as they were last year. The team has evolved in many different ways as new guys filled the roles left behind by last year’s seniors. Will Breslin ‘24, a three-year player of the purple team, has seen his fair share of Gonzaga Rugby teams, but he still sees a lot of unique things in this one. 

“A difference [compared to our team last year],” Breslin said, “is in our goal because most of us have already won a national title, and now we know that we can do it again, it is just a matter of discipline and hard work. I think our biggest strength is the experience we have across the board on our team. We have a team of dedicated guys all very knowledgeable and who have already played in national championship games, so we have seen many situations before and know how to react to them.”

Andrew LaFrankie ‘24, another three-year purple player, shares a similar sentiment to Breslin with how the team has grown into its role this year.

“This year’s team is rather senior-heavy,” LaFrankie said, “which has meant a greater number of natural leaders have stepped up to guide our team. We don’t just have one or two captains; we have many committed seniors who take on different leadership roles amongst the team. This has also helped with the development of some of the younger guys we have on the team. Since we returned so many guys from last year’s team, we also have become so much smarter with the way we play. Everyone is situationally aware and has a high rugby IQ to create big plays.”

This year isn’t going to be an easy win, though. Despite being undefeated domestically and number one for the entire year, the Eagles have still found themselves in some very close matches. Hudson Chiow ‘24, another three-year purple player, is still confident in this team though. 

“It’s never about the opponent,” Chiow said. “There are some excellent teams at Nationals but we all believe that the only team at Nationals that matters is us.”

With teams like Saint Ignatius Cleveland (ranked 2 in the country), Herriman (6), Saint Edward (14) and Xavier (12), who all gave Gonzaga some trouble either this season or last, Gonzaga is going to have some fun grinding out their sixth national championship as they head off to Indiana. The team will play Xavier on Thursday for the quarterfinals, with semifinals and finals happening the following two days.

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