LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Sacramento State and Santa Clara will begin their California Conference seasons Saturday, Jan. 28 against UC Santa Barbara and Saint Mary’s, respectively. The third-ranked Gaels will host Santa Clara, while Sacramento State will be reintroduced to D1A Rugby when it visits the Gauchos.
No. 3 Saint Mary’s vs. Santa Clara
The Gaels have shown no drop off after their 2016 season ended with yet another appearance in the D1A Rugby National Championship and their first USA Rugby College 7s National Championships. Saint Mary’s began the New Year by shutting out Arizona State, 96-0. Two weeks later the defending California Conference Champions beat UC Santa Barbara by the same score, and most recently disposed No. 14 Utah, 55-12.
There’s no way to replicate the speed and precision Saint Mary’s plays with, but Santa Clara has already tested itself ahead of what will be a tough task in taking down the Gaels. The Broncos went to Arizona a couple weeks ago for a two-game trip against Arizona and Grand Canyon University. After leaving it all on the pitch during a 43-17 defeat to the 16th-ranked Wildcats, Santa Clara salvaged a tie 24 hours later against Grand Canyon. The team’s opportunity to get itself in the win column ahead of its first conference fixture of 2017 was washed away when its Jan. 21 match against Stanford was rained out.
The most entertaining individual matchup could be seen on the wing if Jack O’Hara and Charlie Loudon are lined up across from one another. Santa Clara’s O’Hara and Saint Mary’s Loudon share a similar frame – long and lean – but both are strong enough to fend off would-be tacklers and fast enough to ran past opposition.
The contest will kickoff Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. PT and will be streamed live on Gael Vision.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Sacramento State
After taking a step back from the California Conference competition the past two seasons, Sacramento State makes its return this weekend against UC Santa Barbara. It’s first D1A Rugby game couldn’t come against a better conference foe, either.
UC Santa Barbara hasn’t won a conference match in recent years, but should match up pretty evenly with the Hornets. After having nearly 100 points scored on them by Saint Mary’s, the Gauchos got some positive mojo back within its camp thanks to last weekend’s 23-21 victory over a quality Long Beach State side.
The California Conference will surely be a sizeable step up in competition from the D1AA playing field, but don’t expect Sacramento State to be shell-shocked. The Hornets played a number of competitive matches during the fall, including a pair of fixtures against two-time defending D1AA National Champions UC Davis.
The winner of Saturday’s game between Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara will go a long way in avoiding the basement of California’s conference standings, and potentially propel them to a winning season.