STEUBENVILLE, Ohio—The National Small College Rugby Organization published its pre-season rankings this week, placing Franciscan University's rugby team in the tenth spot out of 25 teams across the United States. The ranking moves the Barons up three spots from last season.
"I didn't expect a higher ranking so quickly," said head coach Mark Hanrahan. "We did lose to Ithaca College in the Sweet Sixteen last season, a team ranked second that went on to the Final Four."
After losing both matches in the Final Four, Ithaca finished last season ranked fourth in the U.S. This season the team moved up to Division II.
"In April," Hanrahan added, "we took runner up in the Midwest Championship to Anderson University who is ranked ninth this season. We know that we can do better than last year and that has been the entire team's attitude since day one of the new season."
Holding on tight to their top competition, the Barons plan to make it to the NSCRO National Championship this year, slated to be held in Glendale, Colo. And if all goes according to plan, they will face Anderson University once again.
"I expect to play Anderson in the Central Regional Finals this November," said Hanrahan. "If things go as expected and we win the Allegheny Rugby Union and Anderson wins the Illinois Rugby Union, we will meet again!"
The Barons boast a strong team of new talent and strong veterans. With Andrew Kay and Michael Brasie leading as captains and veteran players Jonathon Cardinal, Paul Lewis, and Matt Strickland as support, the team is focused on taking everything to the next level. Coach Hanrahan also added to his coaching staff to build up the rugby program even more.
"This team has the best work ethic and dedication I have ever seen," said Hanrahan. "We have increased our strength and conditioning training with the hire of retired Marine Corps Officer Chris Peterson. We also have a seasoned coaching staff of FUS rugby alumni and two international coaches from Ireland and England.
"All the pieces of the puzzle are in place. It's now time to make this dream become reality."