The 99 cent store decorations are up. Greek row is buzzing with energy— like soldiers preparing for battle (when battle is a Halloween rager). And, we just had a three-day blackout.
Yes folks, it’s spooky season. Yes, Halloween is less than 20 days away. No, Cal rugby will not be wearing pirate costumes in their Treasure Island 7s tournament this coming Saturday and Sunday. But — like most rugby matches — there will probably be blood, and it won’t be fake.
Coming out of a formative experience in the first round of the West Coast Sevens tournament two weekends ago, the Cal varsity rugby team has steered the ship toward Treasure Island for the second round this Saturday and Sunday, aiming to improve upon its October 5 outing.
“We want to register an improved performance. And of course, like everyone, we want to win,” said head coach Jack Clark.
Cal sent two teams to San Luis Obispo— one consisting of more experienced players, and the other consisting of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Out of the two teams, the frosh-soph team reached the finals of the tournament where they lost to UCLA. The more experienced team (which did include 4 underclassmen due to injured upperclassmen) ended up losing to Cal Poly and UCLA, but rallied in the last half of the tournament to beat SDSU and Arizona.
The Bears also came out of San Luis Obispo with a significant blow to their already depleted arsenal of upperclassmen standouts. Sam Cusano, Cal’s star wing, suffered a serious leg injury in the UCLA game and will be out for several months. Moreover, the three day blackout has complicated their training schedule, but the Bears are rolling on.
“Our schedule has been somewhat out of rhythm with the closure last week, but we managed to get some time together and field train,” Clark said, “It seems we’re making some progress.”
Heading into Treasure Island this weekend, Cal is sending just one team. Cal’s pool, pool B, consists of Trinity Western, USD, and San Jose State. On Saturday, the Bears will face off with the SJSU Spartans in the morning, followed by the Trinity Western Spartans around noon. They will then face the Toreros at 3:00 P.M. to round off day one. Of course, Sunday’s schedule depends on how the Bears do on Saturday.
None of the schools in pool B are rugby powerhouses, but after the Bears’ loss to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Cal isn’t underestimating any team— especially in the fast-paced, one-mistake-could-decide-the-game format of rugby sevens.
“We cannot look past any opponents,” Clark confirmed.
If Cal moves out of pool play, the Bears may face some ghosts from San Luis Obispo including Cal Poly and UCLA, who were both able to exploit Cal’s defense in the second halves of their respective games. Clark indicated defense was going to be a focus.
There’s another potential obstacle for the Bears: youth. Talented underclassmen, along with the injuries of key upperclassmen (like Cusano) have led to what will be a very young team at Treasure Island. It remains to be seen whether or not this team will flow well— especially after a lot of player-shuffling in the past months.
“There’s enough talent,” Clark said. “It’s just inexperienced talent.”
Jem Ruf covers men’s rugby. Contact him at [email protected].