This weekend the #16 Central Washington University (CWU) kick off their 2018 15s campaign, as they head down south to take on two of the best teams in California. Over the weekend Central Washington will play against UC Davis and St. Mary’s on Firday and Saturday, respectively.
CWU is coming into their 15s season after an impressive display in their fall 7s season where they complied a perfect 10-0 record winning both the West Coast 7s Tournament and the Collegiate Fall Rugby 7s Classic. It wasn’t just the fact they didn’t lose a game during the 7s season, it was the fact they beat some of the elite teams on the West Coast including Arizona three times and Cal once. They will be looking to pick up their Spring season where their Fall left off.
They will have their work cut out for them playing full games two days in a row, but while the task may seem daunting physically, Todd Thornley, their Head Coach, believes it this is the ideal kick off: “What a great way to start our season, taking on two great programs.”
Their first opponent, UC Davis, is playing their first year at the D1A level, but they will not be an easy beat, as they appeared in the last three D1AA National Championships, winning two of those appearances. Their only loss in the National Championship was to Notre Dame College, who if their success is any indicator of how UC Davis will perform, it is a worrying sign for Central Washington. However, CWU will be taking some solace from the fact they beat them in the Fall at the West Coast 7s.
On Saturday they come up against the #1 St. Mary’s Gaels, the defending national champions. In three of the last four years the Gaels have been crowned champions of D1A. The Gaels have put together an impressive pre season as well. They defeated a touring squad of Australian’s from Gordon Rugby Club in December, as well as running rampant through Iona College beating them 74-0. Central Washington will no doubt be looking to fair better against the Gaels than those who came before them.
This weekend is sure to test the men from Ellensburg, but it is a challenge they are up for and looking forward to: “We will find out a lot about ourselves on this trip and it will give us a great assessment of where to improve moving forward.” Thornley commented.
It’s bound to be a tour which leaves a heavy impression within the D1A community as teams will be paying close attention to not only how Thornley and his men perform, but also how the recently promoted UC Davis will perform against the elite sides in D1A. The most interest, however, will be paid to the St Mary’s and if they look like going for championship number 4 out of 5.