The UCSB women’s rugby team thumped UCLA on Saturday at Rob Field in the program’s first-ever match on the new field turf.
Santa Barbara’s A-squad trounced its Bruin counterpart 19-5 while the Gaucho B-team shut out UCLA 12-0 in both teams’ season-openers. After last year’s disappointing third-place finish in the Southern California Rugby Football Union (SCRFU), UCSB is confident that Saturday’s victories mark the beginning of a successful season.
“Things just really came together on Saturday,” junior Daralisa Cheung said. “We made our tackles and just played really good defense all day.”
The Gauchos have a fresh look this year, inserting some new talent on the offensive end. Santa Barbara believes that this year’s squad is one of the most talented teams in recent memory.
“This year we look a lot stronger. We have a really good rookie class,” sophomore Corinne Lytle said. “We definitely feel like we can and should win our conference this year. We haven’t won in five years now.”
The Gauchos have two straight bye weekends before they host rival Arizona State University at Elings Park in downtown Santa Barbara, off Las Positas Road on Feb. 5. In preparation for the contest with the Sun Devils, Santa Barbara will try to arrange scrimmages over the next couple of weekends with local teams such as St. Mary’s.
Practicing two days a week and participating in rigorous training sessions two additional days, Santa Barbara has been preparing to win the Division I title of the SCRFU. Division I is comprised of four teams — UCSB I, UCSB II, Arizona State and San Diego. Since only the champion gets a bid to Nationals in April, the Gauchos have highlighted their Feb. 26 date with UCSD at Harder Stadium and the season finale against UCSD on April 2 on the road.
Both Santa Barbara squads must finish in the top three this year to avoid relegation to Division II, junior Phoebe Boone said. Division I fourth place finishers receive automatic demotion to Division II for the next season. While the SCRFU sends just one school to Nationals, the Northern California Rugby Football Union (NCRFU) sends three teams. Last year, the Gauchos beat the NCRFU’s third-place representative. UC Davis.