Friendlies aplenty for California Conference

D1A Rugby: Friendlies aplenty for California Conference
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – Teams out of the Golden State are benefactors of snowless winters, and the California Conference is taking advantage of it. Each team in the conference, minus San Diego State, has an intriguing friendly lined up this weekend to open 2016.

There’s no question the marquee matchup on the California docket is between reigning National Champion Saint Mary’s and senior club powerhouse San Francisco Golden Gate. However, the Gaels won’t be the only college side taking on a local senior squad, as Cal Poly will face San Luis Obispo RFC.

After rain forced the Mustangs to cancel yesterday’s match against Sacramento State, all of Cal Poly’s marbles will go towards putting together 80 quality minutes against San Luis Obispo. Reliable returners like All-American Connor Cudeback, Kelii Dominguez, and John Joe Murphy will be relied on heavily, but friendlies are great opportunities to blood new players, and the Mustangs are quite excited about a few of them.

“Third-year player Salvador Guevara has stepped up, and has been playing like a man possessed this year,” Cudeback claimed. “I’m also very excited to see Dustin Mollard return from injury after being nearly unstoppable in the fall sevens tournaments.”

With a match against Cal looming before month’s end, Cal Poly could be tempted to rush its efforts to knock off holiday rust and build on the continuity it gained over the fall, but the Mustangs won’t allow the game against the Bears to consume their attentions.

“It’s always nice to see how you stack up against one of the top-ranked teams in the country,” said Cudeback. “That being said, it’s just another game against just another team, and we’re going to go out and give it a go.”

Santa Clara will make the short trip to Stanford today for a Friday night game under the lights of Steuber Rugby Stadium. Recently, news broke that Santa Clara Head Coach Paul Keeler has been appointed head coach of PRO Rugby’s San Francisco-based franchise. Fortunately for the Broncos, Keeler’s role with PRO Rugby will not keep him from continuing to build the Santa Clara program.

Last year, the Broncos rallied from a 19-3 deficit to beat the Cardinal, 22-19. With matches against No. 3 Lindenwood and Wyoming awaiting ahead of conference play, Santa Clara could used a victory over Stanford to jumpstart its 2016 season.

UC Santa Barbara, which accumulated more match minutes than any other California Conference team over the fall, will host Sacramento State Jan. 9. While the Gauchos kept busy this past autumn, mixed results make it unclear if the program is ready to rise in the California standings. Wins against Long Beach State and Santa Barbara Rugby Academy highlighted the fall, but a tight loss to California State Maritime shows more polishing is needed.