By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The 39th annual Cherry Pit Rugby Tournament just got a little more important to the Traverse Bay Blues.
With a short turn-around to the regular-season opener, player evaluations from coach Matt Szatkiewicz will rely a lot more on play in today’s eight-team tourney.
“It’s a fun tournament,” Szatkiewicz said. “But more so, I’ve been using it to get all our players an opportunity to play. A lot of our new players, too, just to see how the game looks. We try to build on everything we’ve been practicing and see how it all comes together. It’s a really good learning opportunity for our players who are brand new to the sport and for the veterans to fine-tune their skills in preparation for our opening match.”
Today’s event starts at 9 a.m. at the Civic Center.
After the Cherry Pit, the Blues won’t have much time off. Typically, the team has a couple weeks off before its regular-season opener, but this season that comes just one week later as they travel to Kalamazoo on Aug. 24.
The short turn-around makes evaluations from the Cherry Pit even more important.
“This will really give me the opportunity to take a look at some of the guys and see the best positions to put them at,” Szatkiewicz said.
The Blues start out as one of two games at 9 a.m., facing Central Michigan University. They’ll play again at 1 p.m. if they win or at 2 p.m. if CMU prevails. The schedule could be changed, however, if a team does not show up.
The “Old Boys” game is the only match slated for the 11 a.m. hour, pitting Traverse City against University of Michigan alumni in a game only for players 35 and up.
More matches are slated for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., with the championship match scheduled for approximately 3:30 p.m. All matches are played with 25-minutes halves and five-minute halftimes.
The other teams participating are Grand Rapids, Michigan State, the 3rd Halfers (Kalamazoo/Tri-Cities), Mad City Maulers (Flint/Oakland University), the Traverse City Alliance alumni and defending champion Detroit Cobras. The Blues were runner-up for the second straight year.
The Alliance team is made up of former players, including some who are now playing at the college level.
Admission to the event is free.