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Expanded Loyola rugby team attracting new students to the sport

Loyola press release - October 21, 2014

As Loyola University New Orleans’ new official full-time head coach for the expanded Loyola Wolf Pack Rugby Club, Sam Brock has seen tremendous interest in the sport from young men and women. And on the heels of recent team successes, including capturing the National Small College Rugby Organization’s 2014 Deep South Rugby Conference regional championship in April, high school students interested in the sport are eyeing Loyola as their top choice for higher education. Collegiate rugby is governed by USA Rugby.

Brock, who previously was a part-time coach with the rugby club team, has been playing rugby for nearly 30 years. He says the sport combines all the contact and excitement of football with the nonstop action of soccer as well. This, along with the recent successes of the team, are attracting young players to the sport such as freshman Malik Walker from Jesuit High School in New Orleans. Walker was offered rugby scholarships to multiple schools, but ultimately decided to join the Loyola team.

“I would have most likely not have chosen to come to Loyola if it was not for the fact that we have a quality rugby team that is growing in stature, on-field quality and national recognition every year. Our coaches instill a culture and mindset of professionalism,” Walker said.

Under Brock’s guidance, the team is transitioning into a strong program he hopes will bring home a national championship in the future. The team is well on its way. In addition to the National Small College Rugby Organization Deep South Rugby Conference championship title this year, since 2012, the Wolf Pack has won four summer tournaments. The team was also named the National Small College Rugby Organization South Champions for 15-man rugby and the organization's South Tournament runner-up for seven-man rugby in 2014.

The success of the men’s team is drawing substantial interest from young women, some of whom play on their high school team. Loyola plans to launch a women’s rugby program on campus by early 2015.

Team captain Alla El-Jaouhari, currently enrolled in the MBA program at Loyola, saw the team grow from a struggling outfit as a freshman in 2010 to the more focused, newly expanded squad of today.

“We were struggling to get eight guys out to practice. Now we have 22 guys and up at practice,” El-Jaouhari said.

Rugby has been a huge part of sophomore Eamon Roche’s life since he was in the fifth grade and the fact that Loyola not only has a team, but has been so successful, played a pivotal role in his decision to enroll at the university.

“Attending a college with a rugby team was a must for me. When hearing about Loyola's up-and-coming team, I was highly intrigued. Essentially, the presence of the rugby team was the deciding factor of where I would be attending for the next four years. It has been a great way to meet friends and become a part of a great community. Without Loyola rugby, I would be lost,” Roche said.