SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 16, 2013

Rugby a true love of Smerczynski's

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — Pat Smerczynski of Topsfield has been named captain of the University of Vermont rugby team. The junior, who played football and rugby at St. John’s Prep, will serve as captain for the spring session and also next year.

He recently switched from flanker — the position he played all through high school on two state and one New England championship teams — to a winger on the outside.

Former Prep teammates Faxon Michaud of Marblehead and Derek McDonald of Georgetown also play for the Catamounts.

“I had a lot of injuries, which is the reason for the (position) change,” said Smerczynski, an ecological agriculture and forestry major. “In the fall I started out with an ankle injury, and then suffered a concussion in practice. It happened around the middle of October and I wasn’t able to come back for the rest of the season.

“Playing outside on the wing will reduce the chances of another concussion; once you get one you are more apt to have others. I’m really looking forward to playing again, and we’ve already been practicing on our indoor turf.”

Fall is the main season for rugby at the college level, and depending on how well the team does determines whether an invitation will be earned to the nationals in the spring.

“The year before I came to UVM the team went to nationals (reaching the semifinals), but we haven’t done it since,” said Smerczynski. “I’m hoping we can get there again before I graduate.

“In the fall we play everybody in our league, and based on the record have a chance to get to the playoffs. If you win your bracket, you advance to nationals. In the spring we play all the local teams around and hope to go to the Beast of The East Tournament.”

As a club team, the Catamounts reach out both to the community and to charities. “One thing we do which is always a lot of fun is inviting local kids to clinics,” said Smerczynski. “It’s great to help them learn the game.”

Smerczynski, who was named Most Improved as a junior at St. John’s Prep and Unsung Hero the following year, intends to go to graduate school and will join a rugby club team. Last summer he did an internship in Geneva, N.Y. and played rugby with some friends from Hobart College. He has also played a few games with the Mystics.

“They’re the real deal,” he said of the Mystics. “My senior year at St. John’s we won the Massachusetts state championship under their colors.

“Rugby is a lifelong sport, and there are good teams everywhere. There is so much camaraderie; one of my best friends on the team is a kid I played against when he was at Xaverian. He transferred from South Carolina and now plays with us. Everywhere you go, you run into people you know.”

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Kerri Zerfoss, a freshman soccer and basketball standout at Pingree, left for Costa Rica a few days ago to play with the Region 1 Select team.

The Olympic Development Program 1998 elite team has 18 players from Maine to Virginia with three from Massachusetts. Zerfoss, who just turned 15 this past week, is from Peabody while goalie Brooke Heinsohn (former Celtics great Tommy Heinsohn’s granddaughter) is from Norfolk,and center midfielder Jaileen Gonclaves comes from Ludlow.

“I’m excited,” said Zerfoss, who is a center back. “We’ll play four games with premier teams from Costa Rica. It will be different from the competition we usually play, and there may be some different rules that we’ll have to adjust to.”

The last time the ODP team (which is coached by Dave Bucciero) was together was last fall on a trip to Florida, where they went 1-1-1 against top notch competition from other regions of the country.

“We’ll be there until (next Thursday),” said Zerfoss whose dad, Karl, went with her. “One of the things we’re doing is bringing school supplies to an orphanage, because they really need everything. That will be an eye opener for all of us.”

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.