The Bears will aim to build off last weekend’s experiences against Arizona and UC Santa Cruz as they prep for Saturday afternoon’s two-game set against the Utah and Pleasanton at Witter Rugby Field.
A quartet of fifth-year athletes provides a strong basis for Cal’s leadership. Flyhalf Russell Webb, wing Miles Honens and centers Anthony Salaber and Patrick Barrientes are among some of the team’s savvy veterans the younger players can turn to for guidance and insight, as the 15s season carries on.
In addition, freshman wing Sam Cusano, freshman center Christian Dyer and sophomore fullback/center Troy Lockyear will aim to be among the underclassmen looking to continue being key contributors for the Bears’ well-balanced roster.
Though the Bears had decisive wins against Arizona and UC Santa Cruz last weekend, with senior prop Kevin Sullivan scoring four tries against the Wildcats, there are still many facets of the game that the team can improve upon.
“I think we are still trying to cut down on our errors. I mean, we had quite a few ball handling issues and our kicking probably wasn’t as good as it’s been, so if we can cut down on those, a lot of those were unforced errors, it will really help us,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark.
At a record of 6-0 in 15s play, the Bears have put themselves in a great position to start the season. The work of building the team, however, is a process that takes time. Cal will be challenged this weekend to answer the bell by reducing its errors and in return, playing some more sound rugby against two formidable opponents.
Cal plays a familiar team on Saturday with fellow PAC Rugby Conference member Utah and its All-American Chad Gough. On the other hand, Cal’s second opponent, the Jesters, are a non-collegiate affiliated team comprised of under-23 players.
This weekend’s two-game set presents Cal with another chance to learn on the fly and continue growing as a team. The roster’s depth and versatility will be counted on this weekend, as the Bears will look to keep up their strong start to the season. Coach Clark, though, expressed that the team is not merely fixated on their overall record.
“The guys are very realistic and quite honest in their own performance. I don’t think we’re trying to count up victories at this point, we’re just trying to get our game right,” Clark said.
By paying close attention to the details of their performance, players will keep learning and growing, while ultimately putting the team in a solid position for future matches. In return, this will help ensure the Bears are playing great rugby from game to game.
Cal’s rugby program has big aspirations, and this early-season premium placed on improvement may provide the footing for future successes.
“Most of the focus has not been on results, it’s really been on our performance,” Clark said. “I think the players would be the first ones to put their hands up and say, our performance can definitely improve.”
Ryan Groves covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].