TRAVERSE CITY — As the Traverse Bay Blues head into their 40th year, the rugby club is ramping up its schedule.
The Blues will have a new league alignment this year, with Grand Rapids and Toledo moving down from Division 2 to the Midwest East-North Division 3 Conference. The other squads in that league are Flint, Tri Cities, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo, and each will make an appearance in Traverse City in the next year as part of the conference’s new home-and-home format.
Club president Tony Dell’aqua said the team’s slate of 12 games will not only mean more formidable foes, but it’ll also mean more in plain numbers.
After USA Rugby changed things up, Division 3 become much more competitive. Some teams that didn’t travel well — and frequently forfeited road games due to lack of players — were sent down to Division 4.
The season officially opens Aug. 24 at the Kalamazoo Dogs, who advanced to the Division 3 national quarterfinals last year.
“We’re certainly going to have our hands full playing against them,” head coach Matt Szatkiewicz said.
Training for the season starts Aug. 1 with a 6:30-8:30 session at the Franke Road field. The team has about 25 players for the upcoming season, but anyone is welcome to come to the session and give the sport a try, Szatkiewicz said.
“We really encourage everyone to come on out if they’re interested in a full-contact sport that is one of the more exciting sports int he U.S.,” Szatkiewicz said. “It kind of combines to constant activity of basketball and hockey and soccer with the added benefit of being able to hit and tackle people. Definitely, it is one of the more dynamic sports you’re going to experience. We tell all of our new players that if they can stick with the practices and actually participate in a game, very few then don’t stick with the sport.”