Members of the Troy United rugby team pose together after topping the field of the Affinity Financial Group High School Division at the Rock Hard Rugby Sevens Tournament July 22 in Grand Rapids. United finished the season with an 8-0 mark.

Members of the Troy United rugby team pose together after topping the field of the Affinity Financial Group High School Division at the Rock Hard Rugby Sevens Tournament July 22 in Grand Rapids. United finished the season with an 8-0 mark.

Photo provided by Tom Vecchioni


Troy United adds to trophy case

By: Timothy Pontzer | Troy Times | Published July 31, 2018

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TROY — After the final whistle blew on yet another victory, title and overall season, members of the Troy United rugby team were unsure of how to react.

While most wins warrant elation, dogpiles and hugs, this championship came with a caveat.

By defeating a Canadian All-Star team in the finale of the Affinity Financial Group High School Division at the Rock Hard Rugby Sevens Tournament July 22 in Grand Rapids, Troy United secured an 8-0 finish to its summer season. However, it also meant the prep careers of a core of seniors had closed out.

“It almost makes me cry when I think about it,” United coach Rob Anderson said. “This is a really, really special team. They were obviously a very talented team and showed that by going undefeated for two seasons playing some of the top teams in the state.”

Five seniors played their final game for United, including four who had played on the club for four seasons: Alex Vecchioni, Owen Westbrook, Mattias Johansson and Max Gervais.

“This is a group of guys that loved each other, and it showed on the field,” Anderson remarked. “They played a very exciting style of rugby. I felt really close to them. It was a bittersweet victory for me to see them play, but know that this is it.”

Westbrook agreed that it was a bittersweet moment.

“Our final game was against a Canadian team that was also undefeated. Winning that game was probably one of the biggest things the program has ever done,” Westbrook said. “But when the game ended, there wasn’t really any celebrating. We were happy we won, but we all knew in the back of our minds we would never play together again or under Coach Rob or with the brothers we had become over the years.”

A joint effort featuring student-athletes from both Troy High and Troy Athens, Westbrook said each member of the roster appreciates the time and effort put in by Anderson.

“The team was ecstatic that we didn’t lose a game this season, partly because we knew we could with our talent and experience, but also because we knew our coach deserved nothing less,” Westbrook said. “He sacrifices a lot of time each year to better us not only as players, but as men, and we wanted to make him proud.”

Anderson had high praise for Westbrook and the rest of his senior class.

“Teams develop a character based on the stronger personalities,” Anderson explained. “The seniors that we had this year have really shaped this team. It’s really been their team, and (they) had a lot of heart and success. Next year we’ll have some of that personality left over, but it’s hard to replace that. They’ve created a culture.”

The rugby season is split into two seasons, a “traditional” 15-on-15 format in the spring and a more Americanized version featuring seven on seven in the summer. It’s also known as “sevens.”

In the spring season, United finished 8-0, winning the Division 1 state championship with a victory over Howell High May 26. In the subsequent sevens slate, United had an identical 8-0 record, with many of the same players helping both undefeated squads.

Anderson is in his eighth year at the helm of the program. Johansson said his coach deserves all the credit for the success the program has seen. 

“He did so much just to put us in this position to have a season like this,” Johansson said.

Anderson said this senior class won’t be forgotten. 

“This was a magical year where everything came together. This is the best team I’ve ever coached,” he said. “These seniors have left behind a legacy. … They overcame everything that was in their way and always did it together. I’m so proud to be able to be their coach.”

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