rugby Wreck-ing crew
WESTPORT — There’s a team sport at Staples High that is coming off a state championship appearance just a season ago.
It’s not in lacrosse, baseball or football.
What team could it be? Well there are currently 80 players in the program, making it one of the largest, if not the largest, at the school. It’s also not swimming, track or hockey.
As it turns out, the program is the Staples rugby team, probably the most unheralded team at the school, yet one that is growing and seems to be improving year in and year out.
“They’re just a good bunch of kids,” Staples’ Australian-born third-year head coach David Lyme said of his players. “They want to be better, they want to learn, they want to grow, they want to be successful at what they do and they’re proud of each other, the club and the team we have here. We’re the largest contact sport at the school now and they’re also proud of that.
“Very little people know about it and it’s not as big as you’d think it is.”
Since Lyme came to Staples five years ago, two years as an assistant and forwards coach before ascending to the top spot, the numbers have increased. They had 30 when he arrived and the numbers have almost tripled since then.
“When I started as a freshman, there were only two teams and now we have four, one for each grade,” said senior captain and center Tom Messenger. “It’s great to get a lot of the younger guys out, playing and learning the game. It really looks like we’re setting ourselves up for the future.”
Though the squad lost 13 seniors to graduation, Lyme likes what he sees from his Wreckers, who are mostly juniors and sophomores. It’s basically a whole new start, he said, which is exciting.
When asked what he wants to see from his team this season, Lyme was straightforward.
“Just effort,” he said. “I don’t have a win-loss ratio. We set our goals at the beginning of the season now we’ll go out and if they turn up tomorrow and train better than they did today or if they turn up next weekend and play better than they did last week… If it’s just a better performance across the board, everything else falls into place and they’re doing that.”
Staples is off to a 2-1 start and is looking to avenge last year’s setback to Greenwich in the state final by five points.
“We didn’t expect to get that far in the playoffs,” recalled senior captain and prop George Harrington, who is also a wrestling standout at the school. “We previously lost to Greenwich by a large margin (during the regular season) so we came into the game with a chip on our shoulder and only lost by a try. It’s been on our minds the whole offseason.”
Instead of singling any particular players out, Lyme said it’s going to be a team effort all season. He said everybody has to do their job for the team to get where it wants to go. Lyme did praise his captains: Harrington, Messenger, Enrique Pesantez and Zach Iannacone.
“We always try to lift each other up and play together,” said Pesantez, an eight-man who also noted how this year’s team is very well-conditioned. “We’re a family, we look out for each other and we work hard together.”
The Wreckers will be back in action this weekend when they host Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) on Saturday at 1 p.m.