All five California schools set for preseason action

D1A Rugby: All five California schools set for preseason action
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater (above & homepage)

BOULDER, Colo. – The entire California Conference will be making strides towards improvement with nonconference matches this weekend. San Diego State hosts a Friday night affair, while the rest of the league gets on the pitch Saturday, Jan. 24.

Cal Poly will head north to Berkeley to face Cal. This match has become a yearly fixture for the two teams, with the Bears easily taking care of the Mustangs, 95-14, in 2014. While pulling off the upset might be a stretch for Cal Poly, it will surely be an excellent test for the team, and a great way for new Head Coach James Tesoriero to see how his roster reacts to adverse situations.

Cal has a ton of size and athleticism, as well as more playing time during the 2014-15 season than Cal Poly. It will be important for half backs and veterans of the team Kelii Dominguez and Taylor Honnette to help settle their teammates’ nerves early in the match.

San Diego State hopes its night game against Grand Canyon University goes better than its last home match played under the lights – a 48-16 blowout loss against No. 6-ranked Air Force. Although only in its first year as a rugby program, Grand Canyon has a load of talent. Against D1A Independent Arizona, the Antelopes fell, 37-20, back in November. Look for Aztec fly half and Men’s AIG Collegiate All-American Kalei Konrad to be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate.

The tests keep coming for Saint Mary’s, with this week’s rendition coming in the form of San Francisco-based men’s club Olympic Club. The Gaels defeated O-Club, 36-29, last year, but have struggled against senior sides so far this season. Dominant wins against Arizona State and Utah show Coach Tim O’Brien’s team is improving, so expect Saint Mary’s to challenge Olympic Cub in all phases of the game.

The Jan. 24 match between the Bay Area powers is set for 1 p.m. PT, and will be streamed live at SMCGaels.com.

In a match that should hold serious D1A Playoff implications, Arizona pays Santa Clara a visit. If the D1A season ended today, both of these teams would be on the outside looking in. Playing as an Independent, Arizona must show well when sharing the field with fellow D1A schools.

Santa Clara should be happy to begin 2015 1-0 after defeating Stanford, 22-19, but the Broncos will need a much improved performance to hang with an Arizona team that on paper looks to be tougher than the team that played in the D1AA National Championship game in 2014.

UC Santa Barbara is hoping to use its 2-1 record at last weekend’s Storer Classic to jumpstart its 2015 campaign. The Gauchos’ foe this weekend is a familiar one – Long Beach State. The two southern California squads met in early December with Long Beach running away with a 40-14 win. While the 49ers are an ever-improving program that reached the D1AA Regional Playoffs last year, Santa Barbara will need to win the rematch to show it can compete in the California Conference.


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