Out of over 500 competing teams, the UCSB men’s rugby team earned the 16th spot in the nation when it traveled to West Point Military Academy to compete in the Sweet 16 national tournament.
Santa Barbara started out the tournament against #2 West Point and got off to a slow start. By the end of the first half the Gaucho’s were down 11-0.
“Two forward passes were called on us,” junior scrumhalf Adam Christy said. “It really killed our fast break, took the momentum out of us. I think they were questionable calls.”
The drain of energy followed the Gauchos into the second half as West Point preceded to score two more tries, with the scoreboard reading 21-0, but UCSB claimed its second wind and brought intensity back into the match.
With 15 minutes left in the game, Santa Barbara stepped it up and quickly scored on two attempts, closing the gap to 21-14 while fighting for the win. West Point made another try and with minutes left in the game, the Gauchos scored again. Unfortunately, UCSB’s comeback was too late, with a final score of 28-21 West Point.
“We should have won,” Christy said. “We really never should have been down.”
Head Coach Kevin Battle was proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“It was a tough match and the boys played really well,” Battle said. “Making 21 points in the last eight minutes is pretty incredible.”
The hard loss for the Gauchos left the team with many injured and exhausted players before sending them to a consolation game against Davis the next day.
“Our bodies weren’t ready for it,” Christy said.
It was the first back-to-back game the Gauchos have ever played and it was immensely difficult for them to recover from their earlier match. Consequently, Davis shut out Santa Barbara 67-0.
“Rugby is not the kind of game that is meant to be played one after the other,” Battle said. “The boys used up everything they had in the game the day before; they had nothing left.”
Overall, the team had a very positive showing and according to Battle, played spectacular rugby. This has only been the Gauchos’ second year making it to the annual tournament. Last year Santa Barbara lost to eventual first place winners UC Berkeley. With only one graduating senior and two freshman starters, next year the Gauchos will have a strong and experienced team.
“UCSB rugby is a well-kept secret,” Battle said. “This was our second year in the tournament and I think maybe third time is the charm.”
To conclude its season, UCSB hosted 40 teams from all across California and Colorado in a final tournament this past weekend.
“It gave an opportunity for the guys who didn’t go the Sweet 16 to play,” Battle said.
The Gaucho reserve team ended up going to the semi-final round losing against the final champions UCLA. This tournament marked the end to the Gaucho rugby yearlong season as well as brought encouragement for next year’s season.