San Diego State spoils SoCal weekend for Army

D1A Rugby: San Diego State spoils SoCal weekend for Army
Photo Credit: Connie Hatfield

It was a busy weekend for No. 7 Army in the Golden State. The Black Knights opened up spring action with a dominant 45-19 win over UCLA Thursday, Mar. 16, but came up short against No. 10 San Diego State by a final of 22-15 two days later.

#7 Army 45-19 UCLA

It was the first meeting between the two squads since Army became a varsity program in 2014-15. From the get go, the Black Knights did not appear to miss a beat coming in to the team’s first match since November.

Junior fullback Jake Lachina led the charge with three tries against the Bruins. Right behind him was center James Mbony with two tries. Three Black Knights had notable debuts as well: senior center Andrew Fargo, who returned after missing the fall season, as well as freshman 8-Man Nathan Brooks and hooker Austin Rutledge.

Overall, head coach Matt Sherman was pleased with the opening game despite the difficulties of travel. Due to a winter storm, combined with spring break, the team was scattered and delayed in arriving to the Golden State. Leave it to West Point cadets to find solutions when necessary.

“We were a bit unfortunate with some conditions outside our control but our operations and management team did an outstanding job to find an optimal solution,” Sherman admitted. “Things were impacted but at the end of the day we had who we needed to compete to the best of our abilities.”

UCLA displayed great effort but the shortcomings due to injury were quick to show versus Army. The Bruins drop to 2-4 on the year, and now shift focus toward Dartmouth this week in the team’s third consecutive home game.

#10 San Diego State 22-15 #7 Army

Four starting Army players from the UCLA game repeated the feat against San Diego State. But a day of rest was not enough to overcome an impressive Aztec squad this past Saturday.Ultimately, San Diego State was once again highlighted by a strong defensive game en route to a Canterbury Top 20 victory.

“It was a physical back and forth match,” said San Diego State head coach Alex Lichtig. “In the end, our guys showed some grit staying in the game and our support at the tackle zone on attack provides some scoring opportunities.”

Sherman echoed similar notes about the game in comparison to Thursday’s Bruins match. He was quick to specify speed, physicality and precision were greatly challenged in Army’s second game of the trip West.

“I thought we improved significantly in the SDSU game, which was pleasing. I thought the game was played at a much higher level all the way around,” Sherman commented, who formally coached the Aztecs. “It was very much an arm wrestle with playoff-like intensity, and while we came up short, there are many parts we can be proud of and build on, and some valuable lessons we can quickly improve on.”

With the score only 3-3 at halftime, the Black Knights were first to find the endzone in the opening minutes of the second half. Lachina’s lone try tied the single season record for Army with his 15th try of the year. Ryan Manion was right behind in scoring with his first try of the year in the loss.

The game also featured a matchup of brothers in opposite uniforms. Torran Raby faced Jonathon Raby of San Diego State in the scrum.

For San Diego State, Lichtig was quick to admit it was a full team effort that led to the team’s eventual comeback.

“All the boys played a hard 80 minutes. In a tight and physical match like this, it takes all 15 guys on the field playing together,” he said.

That includes San Diego native Kevin McGlone, who also made a notable presence in a statement game for the Aztecs. The win coupled with a non-conference Top 20 win against Arizona and one loss in the California conference helps make a strong case for a shot at the D1A Playoffs. A matchup with Arizona State on March 25 is next with hopes of extending the team’s winning streak.

Army, meanwhile, sits at 10-2 on the year, and now focuses on Navy in a game West Point has had circled for a while.

“Overall improvement will be the goal,” Sherman added. “Going into winter, this was always the game we wanted to begin peaking for. I think we are in a good position to do that. This trip was very valuable to put us in a position to do so, but now we need to focus on reaching our next and highest level.”