Staples rugby growing by leaps and bounds
Updated 4:17 pm, Wednesday, May 6, 2015
There have been seasons in recent memory when a win would be a significant accomplishment for the Staples High School rugby team. A winless 2012 and a 3-4 season in 2013 set the stage for a 4-3 record last year.
It appears the corner has been turned for good.
The Wreckers are off to a 3-1 start this spring, their latest win a 64-7 beat down of Darien last Friday at home. The game against the Blue Wave was the lone home match on the schedule. The highlight of the season thus far was a 32-30 win over Fairfield Prep last month -- the first in program history.
"We've put in the effort to expect to get these results," said tri-captain Scott Seo. "We've been working harder than any other year, not just as a team but individually."
Staples is led by first-year head coach Jesse Koproski, who is also an assistant on the wrestling team. Koproski, who wrestled at Wilton and graduated from Hofstra in 2009, has played rugby for the last six years with the Connecticut Yankees, a club team based in Fairfield.
"I've been a student of the game," said Koproski, who added that many of the Staples players spend time in the offseason with the Yankees. "We already had a great foundation that prior coach Oscar Barahona laid down for us and have a great network of parents that offer a lot of support."
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With the amount of talented athletes at the school, rugby -- which started at the school in 2003 -- has become a popular alternative to many of the traditional stick and ball sports. Seo gave Rugby a try entering his sophomore season and quickly fell in love with the sport.
"I thought it would be kind of cool to try out," Seo said. "It was definitely the most fun I'd have, the most adrenaline rush for sure. The guys are all really nice, really great people."
In addition to Seo, who plays scrum-half -- the position on the field that helps build attacks between the backs and the forwards -- fellow captains Trevor Penwell and Brandon Braswell are also crucial components of the team. Braswell plays inside-center -- an important defensive position -- while Penwell is a tight-head prop, a forward position.
"We have a committed group of kids that are dedicated to the sport," Koproski said. "They play it year round, study the game and are in the weight room in the offseason. They've taken it upon themselves to dedicate themselves to the sport and it sort of spread to the underclassmen as well and have the game grow at the school."
The team will conclude its seven-game regular season schedule May 22 when Staples finishes the season at Greenwich, which is nationally ranked and the standard in the state most teams hope to reach. The state playoffs would follow if Staples collects enough wins.
"Everyone in Connecticut wants to get to the point where we can compete with Greenwich," Koproski said. "The emphasis is to execute the game plan and reach our potential; if we can get the numbers and resources to compete with Greenwich then that's awesome, but right now we're trying to be as good of a team as we have."