Band of Brothers
Rugby friendships have strengthened Loyola’s oldest club sport
They remember the mud—churning under their feet as they pushed the scrum forward, splattering as they tackled opponents attempting to score. By day’s end, Butler Field, home to the Loyola Rugby Football Club, was often a pulpy mess, and those that competed in the early days were a uniform shade of brown.
“It got so muddy during some games, you couldn’t tell who was on your team,” Kenny Ames, ’83, said. He joined the club as a first-year student in 1979, three years after it was founded. Since then he’s been a player, club president, captain, coach, and involved alumnus, helping a humble campus oddity become a regional powerhouse. Ames and other early ruggers not only had to compete on the field, but also manage the nascent club.
“Who’s going to schedule games? Find a coach? Find a field? Arrange transportation? That was all managed by the players,” said Ames. “It’s an experience that teaches you life lessons.” In the spring of Ames’ freshman year, the club began to receive more Student Government Association funding and recruited its first coach, Loc Vetter. Vetter, completing his residency at Johns Hopkins, was an orthopedic surgeon, a good thing since the team had no trainer. He devoted almost all of his spare time to the program on a volunteer basis and set the stage for decades of future success.
“If someone needed stitches after a game, Loc would do it right there, M*A*S*H*-style,” Ames said. “He changed the way we viewed ourselves and our program and fueled our desire to succeed on multiple levels.”
Within a year, Loyola rugby was crashing the national scene. Fueled by a close-knit team spirit and the talent of players including All-Americans Ivan Lopez-Muniz, ’88, Steve Laake, ’91, Tim Dipple, ’91, Karl King, ’91, Chris Keffer, ’94, and Sean Lugano, ’95, the club barreled through the next two decades, gathering Potomac Rugby Union championships, tournament titles, and Eastern Rugby Union Final Four appearances. The team traveled to matches in Europe and conquered regional stalwarts such as the University of North Carolina. Just as important as the on-the-field success are the lasting bonds players have formed.