SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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September 27, 2013

Jean DePlacido column: Former Prep standouts enjoying the rugby life at Vermont

Two former St. John’s Prep athletes, Pat Smerczynski and Faxon Michaud, played a big role in helping the University of Vermont win the Granite Rugby Cup at Dartmouth College earlier this month.

The Catamounts beat Keene State in the last minute of the first round, then bested St. Michael’s in the final round. Other teams playing were Middlebury, New England College, New Hampshire and Dartmouth. The annual event had two divisions and used three fields at the beautiful facility set on a hill with a big clubhouse.

“Only the Dartmouth lower sides played,” said Smerczynski, a senior captain for UVM. “Their top side is one of the best in the country.

“This year we have a solid starting lineup, beefed up by a few study-abroad students and some returning starters. We have our largest rookie class since I’ve been here and they show a lot of potential.

“At UVM we try to play ‘ball in hand’ rugby, which means we work on moving the ball with speed and try to off load more often than taking the ball into contact,” added Smerczynski. “Our goal is always to fine tune our handling, even if that means running drills with bricks instead of rugby balls at practice.”

Smerczynski, who is from Topsfield, is an inside center while Marblehead’s Michaud is a flanker. Smerczynski played flanker at the Prep, but after suffering a couple of concussions he switched positions to lessen his chances of getting any more.

In college rugby there is a split season between the fall and spring. The main season is fall, when the Catamounts play everybody else in the league. Playoffs are held in late October, and the winner of the bracket gets an invitation to go to Nationals in the spring. That’s something Smerczynski hopes will happen before he graduates.

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