BOULDER, Colo. – A week after San Diego State’s shutout over UC Santa Barbara was the only California game of the weekend, there are two conference matches out of the Golden State set for Feb. 27. A battle between Canterbury Top 20 teams, Cal Poly versus Santa Clara highlights the pair of fixtures, and No. 1-ranked Saint Mary’s pays UC Santa Barbara a visit.
No. 10 Cal Poly vs. No. 19 Santa Clara
The Mustangs haven’t taken to the pitch since its Feb. 6 preseason defeat against San Diego State, but the time off was part of the team’s preparation heading into its first conference fixture.
“We intentionally scheduled a break leading into the D1A season,” explained Cal Poly Head Coach James Tesoriero. “We expected to be a little banged up after the schedule of friendly matches, and this was certainly the case. During the two weekends off we allowed a number of our key guys to recover from injuries, and we undertook some very challenging conditioning work.”
It’s best that the Mustangs have been working hard since their last game. Saturday’s match against Santa Clara is a home game for Cal Poly, whereas its contests against the other ranked California teams, Saint Mary’s and San Diego State, are on the road.
“This week’s result is hugely important,” Tesoriero said. “We haven’t been in great form, and need to build form as the D1A conference season moves towards road matches against San Diego State and Saint Mary’s.”
Santa Clara earned a win in its first California match over UC Santa Barbara. The Broncos are young, but have shown tremendous potential in their buildup to conference play.
“Santa Clara’s backline players pass well with width, and will look to move the ball from sideline to sideline,” noted Tesoriero. “The team’s form seems to have improved as the preseason progressed, which is a sign of astute coaching.”
UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 1 Saint Mary’s
The Gauchos have opened the conference with two losses, but still look forward to the challenge of taking the pitch with the reigning National Champions.
“Obviously 0-2 isn’t ideal, but playing one of the top teams in the country is a great opportunity,” said UC Santa Barbara Head Coach Tim Lewis. “As far as preparation, nothing really changes. It’s our 15th game of the season, and we will continue to build on our strengths and revisit what we need to work on.”
After having some success on its way to scoring 31 points against Santa Clara, UC Santa Barbara was shutout in its defeat to San Diego State. A closer look at the most recent loss shows there wasn’t a lack of ball in hand that prevented the Gauchos from getting on the scoreboard.
“For large parts of the San Diego State game we were the attacking team with possession and territory,” recalled Lewis. “We will take a look at finishing opportunities off, and cutting down on individual compounded mistakes that lead to opposition tries against the flow of play.”
The Gaels are coming off a one-point loss to BYU, and will be hungry to get back into the win column. At the same time, with matches against Cal, BYU and Utah over the course of a week fast approaching, Saint Mary’s may elect to rest a few starters.
Regardless of who lines-up against the Gauchos Saturday, their best players will need to continue to influence the game. In the second row, Pat Foran and Toby Frost have been invaluable in the set piece, while flanker David Cota has been key on defense, and inside center Jake Kailahi remains the team’s best ball carrier. Each will need to leave an imprint on the match for the Gauchos to stand a chance against the top-ranked Gaels.