BOULDER, Colo. – With only one side sitting outside the D1A Top 20, the California Conference is one of the toughest conferences in the nation. The competition is fierce and the stakes are high, but the rewards of emerging victorious are big, as proven by Saint Mary’s National Championship trophies. Two teams that are fighting to get to rise above conference play and earn a spot in the D1A playoffs, No. 9 Cal Poly and No. 11 San Diego State University, will meet this weekend in one of the biggest California Conference matches of the season.
These two teams played before the start of the conference schedule, and the Aztecs were able to emerge victorious from a very close match.
“There was quite a bit of back and forth throughout the game and we struggled to find our rhythm for most of the match,” said San Diego State Head Coach Alex Lichtig. “Cal Poly was dominant for much of the game in the set piece which put us on our heels and made it difficult to gain much momentum. What helped us get the result in the end was our defense effort and our attacking support in open play.”
The Aztecs attack is ultimately won them the match, running in three long tries. Their speed on the edge will be something Cal Poly will have to be on the lookout for this time around.
“Our team felt extremely frustrated by our loss to SDSU last month,” said Cal Poly Head Coach James Tesoriero. “We were in control of the match at halftime and then we faced some adversity and did not respond well.”
“This week we must focus on not giving SDSU turnover ball. We must also defend the edges a little better as they have some dangerous finishers out wide.”
If the Mustangs play very hard in the ruck, and the Aztecs were able to weather that strength with the help of junior prop Adahir Aguilera. Cal Poly has the ability to win using the power in its scrum, which it proved against UC Santa Barbara, but just need to step up its defense on outside to wear the Aztecs down.
This match has heavy playoff implications for both sides. The Aztecs are sitting at 2-1 in conference play, losing to defending National Champions Saint Mary’s, and need a win to vault them over Cal Poly in the conference standings. Cal Poly is 2-0, but have yet to play the Gaels. Since both the Aztecs and Mustangs have both played the other sides in the California conference, this will be a huge match, and these teams know it.
“We are treating this game as a Playoff qualifier,” said Tesoriero. “If we win, we are likely to get a berth. If we lose than SDSU would likely leapfrog us in the standing and get the playoff place, and fairly so.”