Penn Hills rugby team takes big step forward

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Sunday, May 14, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Following several years of building the program from the ground up following the start of the pandemic, Big Red rugby coach Matt Rosemeyer got to see the fruits of his labor in 2023.

The rugby team, which is a club sport, was able to get 23 players out for the team this season and play a full schedule of 15-a-side-rugby. Last season, Penn Hills didn’t have a full roster and got through the year by playing sevens.

“Playing sevens last season was a big boost,” Rosemeyer said. “A lot of those guys came back. Other people heard about the success and sought us out. The school also let us come in and run the gym class for a day. We introduced the kids to the sport in a noncontact form.”

Penn Hills, with a full roster this season, was able to start the climb toward being able to compete with more accomplished programs. The Big Red were placed in the expansion conference in Rugby Pennsylvania’s Division II and finished 0-3 in league play.

Penn Hills finished 1-4 on the season, winning a match against Indiana County’s junior varsity team. The Big Red beat Indiana County on a late try, 26-21.

Rosemeyer said the progress was evident by the end of the season. Most of the players on the Big Red’s roster are freshmen or sophomores.

“We have been building the program slowly and knew this was going to be a developmental year for us,” said Rosemeyer, whose son Adam is a freshman on the team. “We want to make sure that it is sustainable.”

Penn Hills was able to turn in its best showing during the Big Red’s last game of the season. The Big Red lost 31-7 to Central Catholic, which made the Division II playoffs before losing in the first round.

“In the final game of the season, we showed a big improvement over the course of the season,” Rosemeyer said. “They were able to work together. Starting out at the beginning of the season, we had a cross-section of guys who were high school athletes and some people that hadn’t played contact sports before.”

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