By Billy Huntsman
The New Mexico State University Chiles and Lady Chiles rugby teams are headed to the 44th annual High Desert Rugby Classic Tournament this Saturday and Sunday at Bullhead Park, 1606 San Pedro Blvd. SE, in Albuquerque.
Among the competitors the men’s college team will face are the University of New Mexico Lobos, the New Mexico Tech Pygmies, and the University of Texas – El Paso Miners. The women’s club team will face such teams as the Colorado Springs Grizzlies, the Albuquerque Atomic Sisters, and the El Paso Scorpions. Exact matchups won’t be known by the teams until Friday.
“We’re really just trying to end this season with a bang,” says Brian Toles, president of the men’s team. “We’ve been working a lot with fitness, some critical points in previous matches where we’ve not performed well, we’re trying to improve those areas so that we can perform well in the tournament.”
Before the Chiles team was formed this year, members of the team competed in the tournament last year with the Las Cruces Horny Toads in the club division. The team got second place in the tournament.
“I think (the Chiles) are going to have a strong showing (this year), but it’s definitely not going to be like years past,” Toles say. “We are a younger team and we’re still developing a lot of new players, so it’s more of a learning experience and trying to get people play time.”
The men’s team have a win-loss record of 1-3.
The Lady Chiles club team participated in the tournament last year, as well, losing three games and winning two.
“This year we have a lot of new girls, so we’ll start off with them trying to figure out what they’re doing, but I think we’ll also do pretty well,” says Maddie Gallo, president of the women’s team.
Gallo says the season started out rough for the team.
“But with each game we have gotten better,” she says.
“(Now, the team) understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it,” Gallo says. “They understand now what plays they should do. They know how to run the ball, they know where they need to be, they know when they need to ruck.”
The men’s and women’s team practice Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the lower intramural field. They encourage anyone interested in watching or participating to come out.
The High Desert Rugby Classic is the second-oldest rugby tournament west of the Mississippi, and the third-oldest ongoing sports tournament in Albuquerque, behind the High School State Tournament and the William H. Tucker Invitational Golf Tournament.