Aspetuck Valley Rugby Club A Decade of Success
Aspetuck Rugby’s modest start began in 2012 when Drew Sennett sought to establish a club with the help of his mom, Tracy, who became club president. Initially the club consisted of boys in grades 5 through 9. Practices were held at Joel Barlow School in Redding. The U-13’s were coached by Stuart Meyler and U-15’s by Neil Grassie. The club sought out games throughout the tri-state area against whoever they could. A notable event of the 2013 season was club families hosting 44 students from the North London Merchant Taylors School.
Tracy Sennett remained president through the 2014 season, a year Aspetuck Rugby really started to get noticed. The U-14 team finished undefeated and were the CT/MA champions under coach Meyler. In 2015 Tracy Sennett turned over the club president reign to Neil Grassie and the Redding Firehouse field became the home turf. The club continued to enjoy considerable growth and success on the field with a few of the high school boys representing CT in the state championships. In 2016 high school player Ryan Robb was an All-American nominee.
In 2017, Aspetuck continued to expand with teams in 5 age groups with several even having A and B sides. Steve Robb took over as club president at this time. The high school team, under the coaching of Steve Robb and Neil Grassie won the CT 2nd division championship and players continued to represent the club on the CT state team, All-American camps and regional development programs. Aspetuck also fielded a competitive summer sevens team in the Empire League and embarked on its first tournament tour to the Cherry Blossom Tournament in VA where they took 1st place in the Plate Division. For the second time Aspetuck families graciously hosted a touring side of boys from the Leventhorpe School in England.
2018 saw Kevin Kendra installed as president with Ray Weiner taking over as head coach. The year represented another milestone in the growth and development of the club with even greater national notoriety. Aspetuck beat Gonzaga Black 54-7 and lost a heartbreaker by 10-12 to Gonzaga Purple in this prestigious tournament. This despite having to deal with several major injuries. The season culminated with the team winning D2 CT. 2018 also saw Aspetuck Rugby outgrow the CT Rugby league to focus on playing nationally ranked teams and to allow a couple of Westchester County boys to continue to be able to play with the club. The club once again moved its home field to Peck’s Lane in Newtown, where it still resides. Aspetuck’s reputation and success led to an invite to the boy’s High School Championships in Kansas City where the team took 2nd place in Tier 2. Because of our boys' high level of sportsmanship, they also won “Class Act of the Tournament”.
The big highlight of 2019 had to be the stunning upset of 10-time defending champ Greenwich in the CT state Championship game. Aspetuck continued to move up the ranks nationally and wound up ranked 14 in the entire country among club teams after fine performances at the Gonzaga Invitational and the national High School championships. Individual players also continued to get recognition with Ray Weiner, Jr. and Louis Gryspeerdt earning All-American honors. Aspetuck alumni were also earning accolades with Luke Davies being named to the USA south all-star squad while playing for Tennessee.
In the fall of 2019 John O’Neill was named the new President of the club along with fellow Board members, Vice President & Youth Coach, Brad Hoadley, Secretary & Youth Coach, Hadley Slade-Jones, and Treasurer, Michael Stivale. All are still in place currently.
2020 started out promising with a very strong squad that was in position to contend for a national title. Opening weekend started with wins against 2 top 25 ranked teams at a tourney in PA. Unfortunately, Covid hit, and the season shut down with Aspetuck ranked #9 in the country. The ongoing success of the high school boys’ team is due in no small part to the work that the coaches put in to develop the boys at the youth level. Hence, a major focus for Aspetuck has always been to get kids involved as early as possible.
2021 was an incredible year despite having lost some key players to graduation. The team played the toughest schedule in the country following coach Ray’s mantra that “to be the best you have to play the best”. Aspetuck finished 3rd in the Club division in the top Tier at Nationals, and ended the season ranked #3 in the country. Pearson Hill, Konye Taylor and Matt Weiner were All-American nominees. 2021 was the inaugural season for the girl’s team, which started by a relentless push from Jennie Weiner who didn’t want her brothers to have all the fun! Eve Grassie was the coach and administrator. The girls played a full schedule in CT and other teams on the East Coast and were highly competitive from the get-go, finishing the season ranked 27th nationally.
In 2022, Kally Kessler took over coaching and administrative duties for the girl’s team. The girls continued in the CT league and participated in the Elite Girls Rugby League (EGRL) which is a new league for the top girls teams in the northeast. This is quite an accomplishment considering that the girls team has only been playing for a couple of years.
In 2023 John O'Neill and Carolyn Roach took over the Girls team. They worked hard and the Girls were able to beat Greenwich in the State Championship, Win the EGRL, beating Morris, and traveled to Ashville, NC and took 5th place in the country. The boys high school team maintained its dominance by having the most competitive schedule in the country, with an outstanding season that once again had them finish 5th in the National Tournament and 3rd in the nation two years running (2021 & 2022). Considering that Aspetuck has played clubs from major cities across the country, the tremendous success is a tribute to hard work of coaches and players.
Aspetuck Valley Rugby Club finished its first decade in a very strong position. The club is solid financially and continues to enjoy the great support of parents, their families, and sponsors. Aspetuck also benefits from a committed group of alumni, many of whom have gone on to play rugby in college and on rugby in college and on local men’s teams. We take pride in knowing that our players are well prepared to play at the next level and many have been recruited by college coaches. Several alumni have returned periodically to help coach existing players.
Given the buy-in of players, coaches, parents, families, and alumni to maintain the tradition of excellence that is Aspetuck Rugby, the next decade looks very bright indeed!