ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The U.S. Naval Academy honored the men’s rugby team with the 2022-23 NAAA Director of Athletics Cup on Wednesday, celebrating an outstanding season. The Navy Director of Athletics, Chet Gladchuk, presented the award, acknowledging the varsity team’s academic excellence, leadership, competition, conduct, aptitude for commission, and honor.

After an undefeated season (18-0), men’s rugby claimed the prestigious honor, culminating in the Division I-A National Championship victory.

The team’s on-field performance was remarkable, outscoring opponents 760-208. They posted an average margin of victory of 30.6 points, with their offense averaging 6.2 tries per match and the defense surrendering only 1.2 tries per contest.

Navy’s success was evident in their eight victories against top-20 ranked teams in the College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) power rankings, where they outscored these strong opponents 274-128.

The 2022-23 campaign opened in the fall, with Navy posting an 11-0 record to win its first Rugby East Conference Championship. Key wins over academy rivals Air Force and Army, including a 71-0 victory over No. 19 Air Force, marked the season’s highlights.

Nine Navy athletes received Rugby East All-Conference accolades, with Lewis Gray, Jack McMahon, Ben Haugh, Roanin Krieger, and William Webb making the First Team Rugby East All-Conference. Others, including Jack Aleman, Nick Janowsky, Tanner Russell, and Vaughn Schmitz, achieved Rugby East Honorable-Mention distinction.

Spring competition saw Navy add four more victories, two against top-10 CRAA-ranked teams, including a win over No. 4 California (33-28).

In the CRAA Division I-A Playoffs, Navy earned the top seed, defeating Army 30-6 in the quarterfinals and Lindenwood 12-10 in the semifinals. The championship match featured a dramatic comeback against California, with Landon Opp’s 68th-minute go-ahead score sealing the game at 28-22.

Following this championship win, Lewis Gray was named the 2023 Rudy Scholz Award winner, presented by the Washington Athletic Club to the top men’s college rugby player in the country. Gray ended the season as Navy’s top scorer with 166 points, contributing significantly to Navy’s success.

The Jupiter, Fla, native also made a critical play in the final minutes of the national championship game, forcing a turnover that prevented a go-ahead score by California.

In addition to the Scholz Award, Gray received The NAAA Sword for Men, an accolade for personal excellence in men’s athletics during varsity competitions.

With a season of success behind them, the Navy’s men’s rugby team will begin the 2023-24 season against Notre Dame on Friday, Aug. 25, in Dublin, Ireland, at Trinity College.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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