Progressing Aztecs will have hands full against Arizona State

D1A Rugby: Progressing Aztecs will have hands full against Arizona State
Photo Credit: Bryan Cox

BOULDER, Colo. – San Diego State received a jolt of momentum following its 36-17 win over Grand Canyon last week. The boost in confidence comes at an opportune time as the Aztecs ready for a nonconference test against Arizona State.

In the win over Grand Canyon, long periods of cohesive and skilled play by San Diego State were intermingled with less than ideal phases.

“When we did it well, our play pattern and continuity was good,” said Aztecs second-year Head Coach Alex Lichtig. “There were times when it was impressive and we showed composure, and there were times when we looked a little frantic. So, even though we got the result we wanted, we still have a long way to go – which is what you would expect out of a performance in January.”

The cohesion that Lichtig refers to could be due to a strenuous winter camp the Aztecs were put through, which included six consecutive days of multiple training sessions a day.

For all of the success San Diego State witnessed in its first match of the year, the Aztecs will need to be even more efficient against Arizona State. Though they’re 0-2 to begin the season, the Sun Devils’ losses have come against BYU and Saint Mary’s – easily two of the best programs in the country.

“We’ll need to eliminate a lot of the mistakes – the simple mistakes. Against Grand Canyon, they will capitalize from time to time, but against a team like Arizona State, they will turn simple mistakes of ours into points every time,” Lichtig said.

The Aztecs are more experienced than they were a season ago, but it would be nearly impossible not to be after starting a squad made up mostly of freshmen against Colorado in a 2014 D1A Playoff match.

“We have a lot more experience after plenty of guys got bled-in last year, and some good senior leadership is emerging as well,” Lichtig pointed out. “The confidence level of the new guys is building. It’s not where it needs to be in order to be a top-tier team, but it’s progressing well.”

Luckily for Lichtig and the entire San Diego State program, AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Kalei Konrad has experience to burn. The Aztecs leader was already one of the best backliners in the country before improving his game over the summer in New Zealand at the Auckland Rugby Academy and on tour with the All-Americans.

Last season, Konrad saw time at both fly half and center, but he is a natural 10 and his ability to make plays with both his hands and feet make him a more valuable asset at first receiver. He will need to be on top of his game in order for San Diego State to beat Arizona State and continue to build momentum heading into California Conference play.