Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Men’s Club Rugby continues tradition of playing against their alumni team, the Flying Tigers

Coach Richard Lopacki holding the alumni game trophy, standing alongside two Class of 2024 men's rugby players.
Coach Richard Lopacki presents the alumni game trophy to Backs Captain Robert O’Brien ‘24 and Forwards Captain Rupert Peacock ‘24.
Photo courtesy of Gary Edling

On Nov. 18, Princeton Athletic Club Men’s Rugby played their semi-annual game against the men’s rugby alumni team, the Flying Tigers, in a matchup that seeped an aura of camaraderie and healthy competitiveness. 

In the 2022–2023 season, the women’s rugby team (established circa 1979) made the switch from club to Division 1 (NCAA). However, the men’s rugby team did not join the Princeton Varsity Club, which has allowed them to uphold certain traditions. Perhaps the most unique and special of these traditions is their alumni game.


When asked what his favorite rugby tradition is, senior back Jack Monas said, “It’s the Flying Tigers alumni game. Pretty much everybody from the previous class shows up, and some of the other captains from previous years will come back. It’s always a lot of fun.”

The Princeton men’s rugby team and their traditions have survived nearly two centuries of history, dating back to 1876 when Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton formed an intercollegiate league. Though American football led the group to fall into the background, it was reorganized in 1931 and remains a men’s club sport team today. The tradition of playing against their alumni team began in 2008.

The alumni team is led by Head Coach Richard Lopacki. Previously, Lopacki coached the undergraduate Princeton men’s rugby team from 2000 to 2023 and also helped coach the women’s team for four years, from 2003 to 2006. 

“Our philosophy as far as Princeton rugby [goes], is that we believe very strongly in the concept of belonging,” Lopacki explained. “Once you become a Princeton rugby player, we want you to stay a Princeton rugby player... Every year, we play two alumni games against our undergrads.”

Alumni and current men’s rugby players huddle around Richard Lopacki, head coach of Princeton men’s rugby team from 2000 to 2023.
Alumni and current men’s rugby players huddle around Richard Lopacki, head coach of Princeton men’s rugby team from 2000 to 2023.

Although the Tigers had played their last official fall season game, the team had continued to practice with the same intensity with which they had prepared for their championship leading up to the alumni game, according to first-year prop Harry Mugisha.


The practice paid off as two first-year undergraduates scored the first tries of their Tiger careers during the game. After an intricate backs play that took the Tigers all the way to the touchline, fullback Xuan Stabb scored his try. In a similar fashion, winger Oliver Nolan scored his try in the final minutes of the game. Sophomore fullback Shaan Jindal, in the last play of the game, scored the final try, sealing a victory for the current Tigers with a final score of 36–34.

This alumni game came after a great season for men’s rugby, as the team joined Division 1-AA National Collegiate Rugby (NCR), which brings together other non-varsity rugby clubs in the United States. 

“We joined a league called the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference (MARC),” said sophomore fullback Joe Silva. “We were able to do that as a club team. This year, we played out of our conference, and we got to go to the national tournament, where we played a game against the University of Maryland.”

This fall, the men’s team ended with a 4–2 record, tied for second in their conference and qualifying for the MARC playoffs. Mugisha went so far as to describe the club as “quasi-varsity,” because the team plays at the level that a varsity team would, while retaining the benefits and sovereignty of a club team. 

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

Although the undergraduate team defeated their alumni this year, the Flying Tigers were by no means out of practice. 

“We go on tours,” Lopacki said. “We have been on tour about eight times to various islands in the Caribbean: British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, and we’ve been to Cancun. This coming year, we’re going back to Mexico.”

The alumni team holds their own practices, and a good number of the team members play for local rugby teams. 

“The core essence of all of this is the feeling that we belong to something, and that we belong to a group that actually cares about us,” said Lopacki. “I feel very strongly that that’s what Princeton rugby is.”

When asked why he came back for the game, Sean Edling ’23 said, “It’s just fun. It’s fun to meet the younger students. It’s fun to play a great game and get out of the office. The culture here is wonderful. You have a vast array of people from different backgrounds that come together for a common passion.” 

Senior Juan Salazar said he plans to return to the West Windsor Fields next year as a Flying Tiger.

“All my friends who have graduated, and all my friends who have yet to graduate are here,” said Salazar. “What makes Princeton rugby so special is that everybody who’s on the team doesn’t have to be on the team. They’re here because they want to be here for themselves and each other, to spend time doing something that’s pretty special.”

“I get the greatest pleasure from seeing the students lead, seeing the students grow,” Lopacki added. “A lot of that is because this is a club sport, they have the opportunity to actually lead the team, plan the tours, and organize things.” 

The freedom to maintain these precious traditions and form such a salient alumni network stems from the team’s history as a club. The members are able to foster a multifaceted culture of principal student leadership, highly competitive athletics, genuine community, and playing for the love of the game. This culture keeps alumni coming back, as each generation eagerly joins the ranks of the Flying Tigers. 

Josefina Gurevich is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

Please direct any corrections to corrections[at]