Who said the Final Four was over? After downing
the University of the Pacific and top-seeded Humboldt State University at a
Pacific regional tournament, MiraCosta College’s rugby club—playing its inaugural
competitive season in a collegiate conference—is in the final four of rugby and on the brink
of a national championship.
takes on Wayne State College in an April 21 national semifinal match in
Cheswick, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. If MiraCosta can top the four-year
college from Wayne, Nebraska, it will play in the April 22 finals against the
winner of a match between the University of New Haven and John Carroll
completed the 2018 season without a defeat in Division III of the Gold Coast
Conference, a conference that includes the University of Nevada at Las Vegas,
Occidental College, Pepperdine University, Cal Poly Pomona, Whittier College
and Westmont College, all of which are four-year schools.
really a great story about a diverse group of young men coming together because
of a desire to play rugby at a competitive level who are now at the brink of
winning a national championship,” said MiraCosta College Athletic Director
story involves more than rugby. It’s also about redemption. The program was
spearheaded by a group of former alternative high school students and Keli
Ross-Ma’u, who has started rugby programs or coached at Mission Vista, Alta
Vista, and Murray high schools, in addition to the Tri City Thunder club team.
Both Alta Vista and Murray are continuation high schools, and Ross-Ma’u said
rugby is the succor that has kept many students on campus.
“Rugby helped change their lives,” Ross-Ma’u
said. Problem was, when they graduated high school, competitive rugby was no
longer an option. At least not until students from Alta Vista (continuation)
High School approached Ross-Ma’u when he was working at MiraCosta as a
grant-funded student services specialist in the Student Equity Department and
pitched the idea of starting a non-sanctioned rugby squad.
The opportunity was too much to pass up. “A lot
of these kids, they love rugby, but in order to play rugby at MiraCosta, they
have to be in school,” Ross-Ma’u said. “Once you’re in school, you see what the
college can offer, and you start looking at your options. And those options can
mean transferring to a four-year university. It’s a pipeline from high school
to MiraCosta to a four-year university.”
fact, one player is transferring to Humboldt State. Another is transferring to
Sacramento State. A player on the women’s team is going to West Point.
“It’s like a movie, and it’s only getting
better,” Ross-Ma’u said. The rugby club began playing “friendlies” or
exhibitions in 2017. But because MiraCosta is one of only a few community colleges
in Southern California with a club, the squad found itself competing against
much larger schools, such as Long Beach State University. That didn’t matter to
students on the field. They just wanted a place to play.
club on its webpage says its mission is “to teach, develop and maintain a
strong, well-organized and enduring rugby program for MiraCosta College
students and to promote and maintain the culture of rugby and its ideals of
strong character, good sportsmanship, exemplary leadership, fair play,
camaraderie, and respect for all players, coaches, referees and spectators.”
The club is open to all. Forty men and 17 women
play on its teams. “It’s a physical game, no doubt,” said Conahan. “But the
camaraderie and fellowship are there. After the game the players are hanging
out, breaking bread together. It’s truly a unique sport. It’s very cool. We are
proud to offer our students the opportunity to participate in such a great
MiraCosta College Rugby Club is looking for donations to finance the squad’s
trip to Pennsylvania. To contribute, please visit this link.