It's more than just about winning for the players. Kevin Kinloch and Robert Boenish said rugby has changed their lives, but that's not to say they haven't found success on the field.
The Western Washington University men's' rugby club team has a chance to move on to the national tournament, but first they have to win two more games.
Western earned the opportunity to host the first round of the playoffs after going undefeated during Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference play. The club outscored its opponents 351-48 in that span.
Senior leader and president of the rugby club Kinloch said the WWU is more focused this year than ever.
"This year, with having coaches, we have been able to really step up our game and play to the level that we all thought we could," Kinloch said in a phone interview. "Our success this year really has to do with the dedication to make our school the best in the nation."
Kinloch said it is really important to him to make WWU a school rugby players want to come to.
Coach Paul Horne said with the team's recent success, that goal is not far off. Players are already being recruited by WWU to play rugby, and the team is also receiving national recognition and has been ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation during the past few weeks.
Both Kinloch and Boenish never played rugby until attending WWU. They said that's very common. Both planned on playing for the WWU football team before it was cancelled and tried out for rugby because friends told them to try it.
Neither Kinloch nor Boenish have ever looked back.
"I'm a huge fan of team sports, but the style of team play is unlike anything I have ever experienced," Boenish said in a phone interview. "It has a different vibe and the camaraderie is what really separates it for me. You make life-long friends, and you become friends with your opponent, which doesn't happen with other sports."
Boenish said the players have a saying that you hate the other team on the field, but afterwards you grab a pint and become good friends.
Boenish said this year's team isn't as big as other teams physically, but the WWU is very athletic and fast and has players in the necessary skill positions.
Preparation off the field is another advantage Kinloch said WWU has this season. He said the team has multiple strategies for opponents and the on-field leaders are good at finding mismatches and exploiting them.
Horne said the team's success this year has a lot to do with the core players.
"We can attribute our success to a few things, but our quality of athletes is one of them," the WWU coach said. "Those core players work really hard and are committed and have changed the culture. This year everything has lined up for them to succeed."
The Vikings play the winner of the University of Oregon and Washington State University on Sunday, April 7. The winner advances to the NCRC championship on Saturday, April 13, at Magnuson Park in Seattle.