The Fresno State men’s rugby team finished its historic season by winning the D1AA National Championship title.
Men’s rugby club head coach Patrick Quan said that, while traveling to Arlington, Texas, to take on the University of Kansas, the team knew Kansas was a type of team it’s never played before.
“It was a total gut check,” he said.
The month of April was a strong one for the team, which started off by winning the Pacific Western Conference League Championship against Sacramento State to clinch the West Coast Championship title in the middle of the month.
The team scored 12 points against Kansas, and Quan attributed it to the defense for its grit to win the match.
The team lost one of its strongest players, Isaia Kruse, in the beginning of the second half. Three more players were down at the end of the match due to “enforceable infractions,” but the team was able to hold Kansas on the Bulldogs’ 5- meter line for the last 10 minutes.
“This is a formula for an understandable defeat, but the goal line stand made by these young men was heroic and emphatically defined them as champions,” Quan said.
He noted that the result of winning the national championship wasn’t just a one-year effort but the results of seven years of hard work. The ‘Dogs went on winning games, earning a spot in playoffs and taking first place in their league. They won the PACWEST Conference Tournament, then regionals and nationals — all steps Quan said allowed the team to rise to the top.
“The coaches and players never backed away from the long-term goals, and every team in that process represented an important part of the evolution to a national championship,” he said.
Due to the pandemic, the team’s drive was interrupted and it wasn’t able to achieve the goals that had been set in place. Despite losing some of its personnel, the team still came back with a core of good rugby players, Quan said.
“That mixed with a new crop of athletic and tough young men was the perfect combination for our run this year,” he said. “We did improve all year, and we needed to to reach our shared goals.”
The team received a lot of support this season from director of club sports Eddie Dominguez, who was able to help with a part of the financials for the trip to Texas. Through the funding from Club Sports at Fresno State, they were able to receive the rest of their funds from the local rugby community in Fresno.
Quan also thanked the Fresno State Police Department for hauling light towers to the grass lot so the team was able to practice on campus.
“Frankly though, beyond that our connection to the school is from the players’ side. I mean they are all full-time students at Fresno State in good standing, pay their tuition, go to their classes and represent their school,” he said.
“The school’s connection to the program is a bit more unresolved in the sense of interaction and providing resources. Hopefully, a national championship is a great example of what the rugby program can bring to Fresno State, but what does it get in return from the school to maintain and improve this national prominence is the question which I cannot answer. You will need to ask them.”
With this national championship, the paradigm for club sports is slowly changing as more teams bring home trophies, according to Quan.
“I do not know if it will, but it should,” he said.
As a supporter and fan of Fresno State Athletics, Quan takes pride in all their successes.
He said that these rugby athletes who attend Fresno State, pay their own tuition, housing, books and more are, in essence, supporting the financial health of the university but are treated as not nearly as important as the sports that do take or rely on funding from the university.
“These students, in my view, are the ultimate Fresno State athletes in the purest form,” he said.
Quan highlighted his gratitude and pride for the team. He said he was blessed to be involved with the players, coaches, staff, parents and local community.
“It has been a wonderful journey for me which I will cherish throughout my lifetime,” he said.