A big thing we’ve been working this year is our explosiveness. Being more physical; working on being an explosive team in tackling and our offense and developing plays. —BYU senior lock Kyle Lontine
PROVO — Most sports fans have heard of a “three-peat” in sports.
This year, BYU rugby will look to accomplish the rare “four-peat” as the program begins its 2015 season seeking to win its fourth straight national championship.
BYU starts this year’s campaign Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils, who recently joined the Varsity Cup, at Snow Canyon High School in St. George.
Last spring, BYU defeated the Cal Golden Bears, 43-33, to win their third straight national title — its fourth championship in six years.
Kyle Lontine, a senior lock on the team, says there are plenty of teams, not just Cal — one of BYU Rugby’s biggest rivals — that will challenge the Cougars for the national title.
“There’s always been a lot of competition for the national title,” said Lontine. “A team that we faced a couple of years ago that gave us a lot of trouble is Central Washington. We see them as a huge competitor for the national title.”
Kyle Sumsion, team captain and a member of the USA Eagles, says he sees an even Varsity Cup competition in 2015.
“I think the fun thing about the Varsity Cup and the way it is progressing is that I see any team taking over the reign, even on our end of the pool if we’re not performing (well) each day,” he said.
Some of the teams on the BYU rugby schedule for 2015 include Utah Valley University, Utah State, Air Force and Dixie State University.
Lontine and Sumsion agree that the match against Saint Mary’s is important because it handed the Cougars their lone defeat last season: “We’d like to set things straight,” said Sumsion.
The Wasatch Cup against the University of Utah on March 21 is one of the highlights of the BYU schedule. Lontine said the match against the Utes is not just another match.
“We always get a sick taste in our mouth if we ever lose to Utah,” said Lontine. “The U. of U. has a great club and it’s definitely not ‘another match’ for us.”
Sumsion said the team can’t look too far ahead to certain games, but the players do look forward to the Utah match.
“The guys and myself, we always look forward to playing the U. of U. just because of that rivalry that’s there," he said. "We know these guys really well. A lot of them (Utes players) we’ve played with them in high school. We take this game very seriously. It’s something that’s really fun because the U. always gets up for that game, as do we.”
The expectation of champions is always the same: winning another title.
After winning three national titles in a row, it seems like BYU has the winning formula down to a science.
Lontine said there has to be a fine balance to create a winning formula.
“We always have a few things that we need to change," Lontine said. "There are some things that we do extremely well and some things we need to do a bit better,”
Sumsion said the team can’t get complacent and expect to win another national championship by doing the exact things they did last year, but at the same time, also keeping what has helped BYU be three-peat champions.
“The answer is both,” Sumsion said. “Things have to change. We have new personnel coming in and they have to be able to pick up where other guys left off. But as far as the traditions and the things that we built at the program, that’s going to stay the same. That’s what’s working.
"We have a culture of winning and that’s something we have to keep, but as far as our efforts and our mentality, we always have to be improving because everyone else is improving at the same time.”
Other than winning another national title, Sumsion said the camaraderie is a great part of being a member of the team.
“What makes each year more special is the friendships, the teammates and the bonds that we create throughout the year," he said. "If we win this year, it will be my fifth national championship, but what I’ve taken away from BYU rugby isn’t the championships we’ve won, it’s the friendships that I’ve made.”
What should BYU fans expect in 2015?
“A big thing we’ve been working this year is our explosiveness,” said Lontine. “Being more physical; working on being an explosive team in tackling and our offense and developing plays. We’ve always been known for our open field play. That’s something we’re trying to work on more in order to create big scoring opportunities, big defensive opportunities and give fans a good game.”
Lontine said the team appreciates the great fan support BYU rugby has from Cougar Nation.
“We got a good crowd here at BYU,” Lontine said. “We always get a lot of support, even on the road. Sometimes we even have more fans at our games on the road than the opposing team has at home. It’s always fun to see Cougar Nation nationwide be able to have that support.”
Sumsion says the team is going to leave it all out on the field for the fans and to bring a fourth consecutive championship to BYU: "We’re going to give our very best each day for them and come home with another national championship," he said.
If the four-peat is accomplished, it’s safe to say BYU rugby will become a dynasty — if it isn’t one already.
Xoel CÀrdenas, M.A. is a sports writer with the Deseret News: Sports. Xoel is also a columnist at SB Nation, the biggest sports blog site in the country, where he covers FC Barcelona. Follow him on Twitter @XoelCardenas