The 2009-10 season was one Aggie rugby fans will not soon forget. For the first time in club history, Texas A&M won the Western Collegiate championship, with a thrilling win over archrival Louisiana State University in the final. They qualified for the National Round of 16, barely succumbing to Utah 36-34 in a thrilling match, before finishing of the season with a big 21-10 win over University of Tennessee. The Aggies look to build off last season’s success while they face a new challenge as members of the newly formed College Premier League.
“I think the Premier League is the most exciting development in US rugby for some time, and has the potential to really get the game in front of the broader public,” said A&M head coach Craig Coates. The new league will be divided into four conferences with Texas A&M playing in the Southern conference. The Aggies will face Arkansas State, Bowling Green, Life College, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Tennessee next season in conference play. “We are very fortunate to be part of the new competition and excited to be part of it from the ground up,” stated Coates.
The Aggies are coming into the new season with a very strong group, but will be missing a trio of key players as a result of graduation. All-American Hamish Roberts will be leave a void in the Aggies’ backline, but according to Coates, the hardest player to replace will be captain Stephen Rios. “Filling the leadership void of Rios will probably be our biggest hole to fill, but we also need someone to step up to play tight-head prop to cover for Chase Johnson.” The loss of two starting front row players (Rios played hooker), is a major concern for the Aggies. “It happens every year [losing players to graduation] and we always seem to be able to reload as the younger players step up,” said Coates.
According to the coaching staff, the Aggie player’s commitment to an enhanced fitness and conditioning program played a big role in their success last year. Coates feels this is one of the team’s strengths along with the motivation provided by last year’s loss to Utah. “I think the pain of the 2 point loss to Utah in the playoffs should provide the needed focus and determination for us to clean up a few weaknesses and be mentally tougher this year.”
Houston players will play a major role in the Aggies destiny this season. Vinnie Baratta (Strake Jesuit), Armando De La Garza (St. Thomas), Andres Diaz (St. Thomas), Sean Doherty (Katy), Lukas Jacobson (Woodlands), Hunter Leland (Katy), Ryan Marshall (Katy), Nate Mentzer (Woodlands), Conor Mills (St. Thomas), Wade Mitchell (HARC), Chris Parker (Katy), and Ben Teaney (Regis) are all expected to make contributions to the team this year.