COLLEGE PARK, Md. --- The Wheeling Jesuit University Varsity Rugby team missed a major upset opportunity against the No. 18 ranked University of Maryland Terrapins. With no time remaining on the clock, the strong and more experienced Maryland side scored on a converted try to tie the score against the Cardinals 26-26.
In the third match since the program's revival, WJU head coach Eric Jerpe says the draw hurts, but lessons can be learned from the match against the nationally ranked opponent. “We thought we had the win sealed up.” Said Jerpe “We had some outstanding individual performances, but we’re such a young group, and the guys are still learning to play as a team.” Wheeling Jesuit remains undefeated at 2-0-1.
Maryland opened the scoring in the game by charging down the field in the initial five minutes to take an early 7-0 lead. Maryland’s lead wouldn’t last long as the Cardinal’s Brandon Stine (Mechanicsburg, PA) found open space, and burned 4 defenders around the corner to sprint 60 meters to tie the score.
Wheeling Jesuit then shifted the momentum on another long end around run by Stine to take a 12-7 lead mid-way into the first half. Maryland would not go quietly however, and the Terrapins would put two more tries on the board to go up 19-12. But WJU’s John Stapleton (Sydney, AUS) tied the score 19-19 at halftime.
The second half would be an intense struggle by both teams. Late in the match, Wheeling Jesuit pinned the Maryland Terps deep in their own territory. Under intense pressure from the Cardinals, WJU Freshman Prop Max Lum (Advance, NC) picked up a loose ball and powered over the line for the try, and the Cardinals took the 26-19 lead.
As the seconds counted down, the University of Maryland would benefit from a penalty, and as time expired, they spun the ball wide with an end-around run in the corner, for the final try of the match. The difficult conversion kick from the far right side of the field sailed through the uprights, and the young Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals would have to settle for a 26-26 tie.
WJU Coach, Jerpe reflected on the team’s performance after the match: “The Maryland match was an important milestone for our program. We look forward to playing quality opponents like this every week, and now have a great indicator of where we stand, and what we need to do to improve.”
WJU’s road trip continues as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, OH on Friday October 5th at 7:30 pm. The WJU Cardinals will end their road trip on October 13th with a match again Penn State. The team returns to West Virginia on October 20th for Homecoming against Notre Dame College of Ohio.