The Naples Bears Rugby Club at Palmetto Ridge High School ended its season last week in the U.S. Rugby South National championship, the equivalent of a regional final.
The club won a pair of games at the tournament before falling 46-0 to the Brentwood (Tenn.) Brumbies. Brentwood moved on to the "Sweet 16" in New Hampshire. Still, the Bears' effort was commendable considering it's just a second-year program.
"I'm very happy with the way the season went," Bears coach Steve Young said. "We won a second straight state title and made the national tournament again, but this time we won two games. Last year, we lost our first game, so we made some definite progress."
Following a win over the Northeast Nomads in the state championship match, the club defeated teams from Georgia and North Carolina to advance to the South regional final against Brentwood.
"(Brentwood) is a program that's been around for 10 years and we're just getting started," Young said. "But we feel our team is going to keep getting better every year, and next year we want to win another state title and win the regional as well."
The Palmetto Ridge club started modestly last year with just eight members. By the end of a state championship season, the roster was up to 22. This season, the Bears had a roster of 38 players.
The Bears added a girls program this season.
Naples Bears Rugby Club Award Winners
Most Valuable Player: Ryan Young; Most Valuable Offensive Player: Steve Kinsland; Most Valuable Defensive Player: Shane Young; Most Improved Player: Phil Colon; Best First-Year Player: Hector De La Rosa; Best Forward: Martin Spies; Best Back: Cosmin Plavita.