Pygmies’ season filled with peaks, valleys

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The New Mexico Tech men’s rugby club gathered Friday for a rain-drenched intrasquad match, followed by a team dinner.

The Pygmies reviewed their fall season and recognized teammates’ valuable on-field contributions. In a rebuilding season revolving around the development of first-year players, the Pygmies managed a 8-9 record.

Key to that record were Brock Romero, who was named the team’s most valuable backline player, and Jerod Aragon, a pivotal forward. Enrique Koerdell tallied a double, receiving accolades as the outstanding attacking and defending player. The Rising Star award for best rookie player went to CV Harris, a Magdalena native.

The Pygmies opened the autumn 2011 campaign in heroic fashion by winning the collegiate championship of the Santa Fe Tens Tournament. Tech looked tentative in narrowly beating a New Mexico Highlands second side and lost its second match to the New Mexico State University Chiles before rebounding with three consecutive wins, including the championship match against Highlands’ first side.

The following weekend, the Pygmies hosted NMSU and the University of New Mexico Lobos in a round robin featuring full, 15-man sides. Official scores weren’t kept but ominously Tech brought up the rear in terms of scoring.

On Sept. 17, the Santa Fe Rugby Club Santos exacted revenge for a rare loss during the spring season, handily defeating the Pygmies 53-12. Following an open weekend, Tech traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz., where its three-year domination of the collegiate division of the Northern Arizona Tens Tournament came to a rude end.

The Pygmies, ambushed 45-17 early by an accomplished Under 23s side from men’s powerhouse Tempe Old Devils, then dropped their second match 21-0 to Northern Arizona University before getting untracked in their third Saturday match, beating Arizona State University’s first team 29-7. On Sunday morning a Pygmies lineup dominated by first-semester players led the club’s to a resounding 26-0 mauling of Embry Riddle University.

Following another open weekend to facilitate midterm exams Tech dove into a grueling three-week stretch of 15-man rugby, beginning with the 40th annual High Desert Classic tournament in Albuquerque on Oct. 15-16. The Pygmies romped relatively weak sides from Ft. Lewis College (47-0) and Las Vegas Highlands (39-0) on Saturday before getting eliminated in the semifinal by rivals NMSU, 22-0.

Following custom, the Pygmies played host Oct. 21 to New Mexico Tech’s alumni rugby team, the Pygmy Ancestors, on the Friday evening of Tech’s annual 49er celebration. This year’s classic was a vast departure from the close Ancestor victory of 2010 or the Pygmy wins the previous two years as the old boys romped, 73-14.

In the season’s concluding match, New Mexico Tech showed signs of the fatigue a challenging season can bring as NMSU shellacked the Pygmies 45-7 in Las Cruces.

Inconsistency became the norm as the Pygmies were challenged by injuries to key players and conflicting school, work and family commitments. Looking ahead to spring 2012, much will depend on the younger players’ progress as they develop confidence only experience provides.