SARANAC LAKE - All three Mountaineers teams competing over the weekend in the 39th Can-Am Rugby Tournament turned in strong showings, but fell short of advancing to the playoff rounds on Sunday.
The Mountaineers Old Boys, or MOB, took to the pitch first, and lost two close contests Friday playing in the over-45 division. The men's and women's teams followed with social division matches Saturday and combined to post a 3-3 record. The women won their first two games and were then knocked out of the tournament with a loss in their third match. The men finished with a 1-2 record, including a third-game setback that ended their play in the tourney.
The MOB, which is a team that mainly consists of longtime Mountaineers and SUNY Plattsburgh alumni, took leads in both games but was unable to hold the advantage down the stretch. In the opener, the Mountaineers fell 17-10 to the Ottawa Senators and then lost 19-12 to the WARTS, an Old Boys side from the Washington, D.C. area.
Irish scrum half Noreen Nethercott finds running room with a host of Mountaineers teammates following the play during Saturday’s match against Uticuse in Syracuse.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Like the tournament itself, the MOB dedicated its weekend to longtime Mountaineers player and club president Dean Naegele, who passed away recently. Tim Mandigo, a former Plattsburgh player now living in Denver, Colo., has been a member of the Mountaineers Old Boys since 2000 and co-captained the squad over the weekend along with Fred Roedel.
"I was co-captain with Dean from 2000 to 2010, and this year, I came to honor him," Mandigo said. "I didn't make it to the Can-Am last year because the economy was bad, but I wasn't going to miss it two years in a row. I always come back because I have too many friends upstate and downstate who are here. Rugby is such a fraternity.
"It was disappointing losing both matches, but we did a lot better than last year," Mandigo added. "In my opinion, we were just one bounce short of being in the finals. We just didn't have the backs this time around. Hopefully, we can take care of that for next year and get back into the finals. Overall, we were competitive. Both our games were close ones."
Of the five losses suffered by the host club at this year's Can-Am, Saturday morning's setback by the Mountaineers men's team had to be the toughest to take. In that contest, Hudson Valley pulled out a 24-19 victory in overtime. The Mountaineers then bounced back with a 20-7 victory over Pocono in the afternoon, but were outmatched in the last game played at Petrova Avenue on Saturday when Brockport turned on the offense to claim a 53-10 win. In that match, Brian Abrams and Terry McGouirk each scored one try for the Mountaineers.
"It was a great day in general, but it wasn't great finishing with a 1-2 record," said Abrams, who captained the men's social division team. "We really didn't have a team this season due to a lack of numbers. It's been a rough year, but given the circumstances, we played great rugby in this tournament.
"The best part of the weekend was we battled," Abrams added. "Our veterans, our rookies, we fought. We played some good teams. As a team, we were satisfied. We brought a bunch of players together and had a lot of fun."
The Mountaineers women rattled off two wins Saturday to start their Can-Am, first claiming a 17-5 victory over South Buffalo and then defeating Uticuse 17-12. The run, however came to an end in their third game when a stacked Saratoga side scored 20 straight points before triumphing 20-5.
This year, the Mountaineers women enjoyed the opportunity to have two Irish players, Clare Brogan and Noreen Nethercott join the team while they were visiting Saranac Lake. Both players are members of Enniskillen's rugby club, which has sent squads to previous Can-Am tournaments.
"I was impressed with the girls on the Mountaineers," Brogan said. "They gave everything for their club playing in the tournament. The girls completely accepted us with open arms and smiling faces.
"Compared to us, the Mountaineers don't have a lot of rugby experience. They have some fairly new players," Nethercott added. "It was good fun for me to see their progression. They picked things up rather quickly. Hopefully, we can come back and play with them again in the future."