The women’s rugby team will host Arizona State this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Harder Stadium.
Saturday is just the first in a series of league games that will determine UCSB’s postseason hopes. In order to make the national tournament in April, the Gauchos will have to run the table in the next few weeks, including a rematch with powerhouse UC San Diego.
Santa Barbara has the talent and the firepower to close UCSD’s lead in league standings, but the Gauchos have to beat them first. The Tritons and Gauchos were supposed to meet last Saturday, but the game was rained out and rescheduled for the weekend after Spring Break.
“It’s going to be the biggest game of the year for us. The entire season will come down to that one game,” sophomore Phoebe Boone said of the rematch.
Santa Barbara will match its powerful forward attack against the fast and versatile backs of UCSD. UC San Diego’s offense is well-known for its passing abilities, and thus far, the rest of the league has been unable to counter. The big question will be how the relatively young Gauchos and their five rookies do against UCSD’s core of seven seniors. The last time these two teams met the score was a lopsided 22-3 in favor of San Diego.
“It was a tough loss. It was our first game of the year, and the officiating was terrible,” Boone said.
Santa Barbara has rebounded since then with a string of big wins, including a 20-0 defeat of the University of Arizona on Feb. 7.
“Our forwards dominated [Arizona’s] backs all over the field. We’re finally starting to play together as a team,” Boone said.
Led by senior captain Niki Palmer, who scored one of the three tries against the Wildcats, UCSB is looking to dominate ASU this weekend.
Besides the upcoming league games, Santa Barbara will visit Ireland over Spring Break for some international play. After arriving in Dublin on Mar. 18, the Gauchos will travel to Head Coach Declan Kehoe’s hometown of Kilkenny for an international coaching clinic and a match against the city’s women’s rugby club. UCSB will play in one other international game and visit different university clubs before leaving the Emerald Isle on Mar. 27.
There will be no rest for the team once they get back, and they will host the Santa Barbara Rugby Tournament on April 24 and 25. The two-day event will feature teams from Arizona, Nevada and California, and will take place on Storke Field and at Harder Stadium.
The next few league matches will be important, and UCSB cannot get caught looking forward. The team will need every edge it can get in order to beat out UCSD for a postseason berth. Every point scored this Saturday and in the remaining league games could decide the fate of both teams if it comes down to points for and against.
The women’s rugby team will host a fundraiser tonight at Woodstock’s Pizza from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Just mention the team while ordering.