TCNJ Men's RFC Abridged History
(from best available information as of 10/4/2010)
Fall 1997/Spring 1998
TCNJ Rugby started with a simple flyer posted by Ralph Citarella. The propaganda worked, and after the first meeting there were 30 or so ex-football and soccer players bound together learning a completely new animal - the game of rugby. First practices were a comedy of errors taking place behind ABE. Eventually we were able to recruit an interim coach - Chris Kasner of the former Hibernians - who was able to add structure to the practices and single out positional players. The fall semester of 1997 consisted of no games per se, but it was able to weed out the weaker players and give glimpses of future standouts. Although no games were officially played, the team did attempt to have full contact games - on Astroturf. Several concussions and multiple carpet burns later, the team called it in for the semester and prepared for the spring.
The spring started off pretty much the same way the fall did. However now the team had a purpose. They had a non-sanctioned match against the Seton Hall Pirates A side. So the team did what needed to be done - prepare. With limited numbers and limited knowledge of the game, the players did their best to learn the game and acclimate themselves to the type of game they were about to jump headfirst into. Finally the big day came - the culmination of 2 semesters worth of preparation - and TCNJ didn't have enough players to field a full side. However, the Montclair Norsemen were kind enough to loan us some players to complete a side - we were not leaving without a match. It was obvious to all players involved we were an inexperienced team, however thru sheer will and determination the TCNJ squad pushed down the field and scored the first try in team history. Michael "The Pumpkin" Perentin completed an 8-man pickup by touching the ball on the post (it took us several minutes and a referees explanation to realize this was indeed a score since none of us had any idea what the rules were). TCNJ regrouped again in the 2nd half and was able to score a 2nd try. The man they call"Flap" picked up a ball in the open field and rumbled, stumbled, and bumbled his way into the try zone. In the end, the more experienced Seton Hall squad was victorious by a 3 point difference. Nonetheless it was a victory for us - TCNJ Rugby had officially begun. The World as we knew it would never again be the same.
The season started out with the petitioning of the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union for membership. The team was granted associate membership and TCNJ was officially bracketed into competitive rugby. The overall administrative structure of the team was testing a new theory of government - a 4 party system of checks and balances. Dubbed the "Four Horsemen" (Ralph Citarella, Joe Maringola, Mike Perentin, & Tony Cotroneo) they attempted to set the groundwork for a successful, enduring program. The system ultimately failed due to lack of communication and the administrative leadership was filtered down to Joe Maringola. Alone he acted as President/Match Secretary/Union liason/School liason. He filled these roles until his graduation in Spring of 2001. Ralph Citarella remained on and handled the Treasury duties, doing his best to con the school out of the most money possible. He did us proud - plus he was able to slide back into his natural role as captain.
The first game of the season was against Widener University Norsemen. An early test in the season for TCNJ, this game featured several promising rookies who would become part of the foundation of the team for several years. It was a hard fought battle, especially fielding the booming kicks from Widener player "Yoshi". However late into the 2nd half the game was within TCNJ reach, however due to a rookie's mistake in our try zone, Widener was able to pounce on the ball and leave with a win.
2nd match was against the Lafayette Norsemen. The field was the middle of farm country, directly next to an airport. And it was cold. TCNJ players braved it out, dug in and went punch for punch with the Norsemen, finally overpowering them in a convincing win. TCNJ has its first win. This day also saw the birth of a TCNJ tradition - the rookie chug. Stranded in the cornfields of Lafayette, Josh Elliot and Mark "Irish" Klimanskis became the first victims.
3rd and final divisional match was against St. Joes - it was more of a fist fight than a game and TCNJ was bested that day.
In a non-divisional game, TCNJ tried to test themselves with a match against a staple in east coast rugby, Princeton University. Besides being a school rich with rugby history, Princeton was Division 1 and national contenders. That didn't stop TCNJ - either out of sheer will or sheer stubborness, an 80 minute match was played and Princeton was victorious 48-5. The try scored by Joe "Little" Maringola still stands as the only try scored against Princeton. This would start one of TCNJ's first rivalries.
The season culminated with TCNJ earning the right to host the Division III Plate Championship. A rematch from earlier in the season, TCNJ & Widener butted heads once again. In front of a home crowd, TCNJ was able get its revenge, taking a convincing victory and with it the Plate Championship. TCNJ had its first piece of hardware.
Spring started with the same intensity as the spring - except we knew what we were doing.
The upstart Lions felt a need for a challenge in the Spring of 2000. A tough schedule was plotted out against the best of the best teams in the EPRU, as well as some local favorites. TCNJ proved it was the dominant #2 school in the state with wins over both Rutgers & Montclair. TCNJ attempted to dethrone the mighty Princeton University, but again, TCNJ was outmatched by a skillful strong squad. To the credit of TCNJ no matter the score, no matter the injury (Ralph ripped open his ear yet again), they kept pounding back at them. Although a loss, the most memorable moment of the match is Lock Nick Lapolla's crushing hit to the Princeton scrumhalf ; the poor bloke woke up thinking he was Batman!
But the crowning moment (of sorts) was TCNJ's match against Kutztown University. TCNJ traveled 2 hours for a highly anticipated match against some big old Pennsylvania farm boys. Simply put, Kutztown was a highly skilled, well conditioned squad that dominated the pitch. However their skill in rugby did not match their sportsmanship. In the end, TCNJ was unable to provide a match as many of its players had been injured or were playing hurt. Captain Joe Maringola explained the situation to the head coach of Kutztown and shortly thereafter a melee ensued. 20 or so TCNJ players stood their ground to close to 60 farm boys; luckily cooler heads prevailed and while Little went toe to toe with the coach, TCNJ players made their way to their respective cars. TCNJ received a letter from Kutztown University banning TCNJ from playing ball at their fine institution.
The Fall started off with the EPRU deeming the TCNJ Lions one of the most promising teams in Division II.
In the spring of 2001, the final chapter was written for most of the founding members of the club. A series of matches were scheduled pitting TCNJ against its fiercest rivals. TCNJ lost its first match to a tough Temple squad. TCNJ only showed up with 15 players but hung in strong the entire match and lost by a try. This game featured historic rucking performances by the men known simply as Muffin & Dumptruck. It also featured the first and only on-field decapitation by Flanker Jay Cairns.
TCNJ was able to fight thru the rest of the season with wins over Rutgers, Montclair, Upenn, & Swarthmore. TCNJ also challenged the pride and guts of several graduate and mens teams when it took part in the 1st annual Law Dogs tourney. Wins didn't matter in this tourney, it was simply a matter of proving TCNJ was the real deal and could go toe to toe with anyone, anytime. The stage had been set for the seniors last match. Home field ; TCNJ v/Temple - the rematch.
In a hard fought 80 minute battle, TCNJ was able to wear down and dominate Temple in all aspects of the game. When the final whistle blew, TCNJ walked off victorious & the seniors retired with the knowledge they had set the bar for all future teams to follow. Special notice should be given to Matt Davis - to this day he stands as the only man to play in every game of every season in every semester attended at TCNJ.
NOTE: We never won DIII. In the Fall of 1999 we were officially bumped up into Division II.
We were picked by Steven Cohen as one of the top 5 premier teams in this division. There was an overall re-bracketing of the entire men's collegiate program. We were bracketed as DII due to our overall success in dIII as well as our anticipated growth as a club.