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Montana State Men's Rugby Club overcomes turbulence, sets eyes on nationals for 4th year in a row

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Posted at 8:39 PM, Apr 21, 2024

BOZEMAN — The Montana State Men’s Rugby Club is no stranger to success. This year the team overcame hurdles, which is a testament to their drive.

“I mean, I can remember back to when I was a freshman here and there was that expectation that like Montana State, just like we go to nationals, we go to sevens nationals, we go to fifteens nationals,” says Inside Center Connor Kelly.

The Montana State Men’s Rugby Club is getting ready to head to nationals for the fourth straight year in a row, but the road to nationals hasn’t always been a smooth one.

“Been in a habit of getting ninth place at these tournaments or like eight. So I think the expectation this time is just to push past that first barrier,” says Kelly. “It's really hard being a club team like, you know, we have a lot of turnovers from fall to spring and like within seasons, but this team has really stayed together.”

Head coach Joseph Williams says the team at the beginning of this year looked a lot different.

“This season was completely unexpected. From where we were in the fall, we had four starters. Now in sevens, you have seven players on the field, and four of those ended up with surgeries,” says Williams. “So when we started the season, we said to the kids, we said, hey, let's just have fun this season.”

Yet fun turned out to be pretty successful.

“Watching some of the guys who weren't typically starting, players being put into those roles, thrown into those roles and then progressed to a Nationals run here at the end of the season is just awesome,” says Flanker Jackson Ellbogen-Pettersen.

Williams says the team’s success comes from everyone putting in the work. 

“We also run alongside with these guys. When I try to talk to these guys about lifting, I take them in the gym and I'll bench and squat and deadlift,” says Williams.

As the team gets ready for their fourth straight visit to nationals, their goal is to not stop the Bobcats from being a stranger to success.

“My biggest goal is leaving this uniform and the club in a better place than when I got here,” says Kelly.

“Incredible that way that we've been able to do this year after year. Montana State is a name in rugby now," says Williams.

The team heads to nationals in Washington D.C. this week, but they need help getting there; they need to raise $15,000. If you would like to help out, you can visit their GoFundMe page:

The 2024 Collegiate Rugby Championship begins Friday, April 26.