The Collegiate Rugby Championship will get underway on Friday in Philadelphia at PPL Park. There will be a few local schools participating in this year, but perhaps one of the most overlooked schools is Kutztown University.
Kutztown, which will be in Pool C competing against Temple, Virginia Tech and California, is small for a D-I school, but has found a lot of success over the past few years. The Bears - led by two-time sevens All-American, and first time fifteens All-American, Tim Acker - are ready to compete in the championships for the first time.
Kutztown boasts an impressive 61-10 overall record after an eventful season. They went to the semi-finals of the Las Vegas Invitational, as well as finished fifth overall and won the Plate Division of the USA Nationals Collegiate Sevens. They also won the Atlantic Coast Rugby League Invitational.
So it’s safe to say that the Bears are confident going in, which explains why they are unconcerned about their matchups against some big name teams.
“I have been going up against these big name schools since my freshman year. We don’t fear any team in this tournament,” captain Tim Acker said. “We have focused more on preparing for Cal-Berkley because we know they will be our biggest competition in the pool.”
Even though they see Cal as their biggest challenge, Kutztown will also play Virginia Tech at 5 p.m on Saturday, and it is one of the games that will be broadcasted live on the NBC Sports network.
Acker said that the game being televised does not “put more pressure on us because we know what we need to do in order to win and that is playing hard aggressive defense and being patient on offense…if anything we are more excited for that game, not nervous.”
Kutztown’s involvement at the CRC will be a good way for Acker to end his playing career with the University. The captain has already graduated and will enter the "real world" a week after the tournament as a sales associate for Pepsi in Allentown, Pa.
However, his involvement in rugby is not over. He has plans to play for the Schuylkill River, a local men’s rugby team, alongside two of his teammates from Kutztown.
Acker’s involvement with Kutztown's rugby team isn't quite over either.
“I’ll be back in the fall to help coach Kutztown’s team in both sevens and fifteens so this won’t be my last go around.”
Among the other local colleges involved in the CRC this year are Temple, St. Joe's, Penn, Villanova, Delaware, and Penn State.
Kutztown may be a small state school, but they play just as well as any of the other big-name schools. And if Acker and the Bears have their way, they'll be a top contender for the national title.