The UCSB women’s rugby team lacked the strength to overcome the power of rival UCSD, losing to the Tritons 15-5. UCSB and UCSD are competing for the one Southern California bid to Nationals in late spring, making this weekend’s loss a critical one.

“We knew technically what we needed to do, but just didn’t execute it,” junior team captain Phoebe Boone said. “We couldn’t break through their tackles and our back line wasn’t prepared for their strength.”
Injuries have plagued Santa Barbara all season and Saturday was no exception. The jumbling of players surely did not help the Gauchos, with many team members switching to completely different positions. However, senior Niki Palmer faced the challenge, moving from forward flanker to back line flyhalf.

“She stepped up and did incredibly well in a brand-new position. Her switch called for different skills and a completely different mentality. And she did it all since Tuesday,” Boone said.

After San Diego scored on the Gauchos twice in the first half, junior Blair Groefsema shot into the corner during the second half, giving UCSB its five points and some momentum. Standout junior Kara Mathews ran all over the field, tackling and wrecking, earning her Player of the Match honor. Despite UCSB’s solid efforts, UCSD proved too fierce, dominating time of possession.

“We played to the best of our abilities. It was our most important game, since it was our first opportunity to beat UCSD for the bid to Nationals,” Boone said. “But with the injuries, we just didn’t do it.”

All is not lost though. Santa Barbara still has a chance for Nationals, which will come in the form of a second game against San Diego on April 2 at UCSD. The Gauchos will have to win the game by 10 points, resulting in the higher point score overall and taking the bid from the powerhouse Tritons. UCSB has failed to beat UCSD for the past four years, but the team is confident this is its year. The Gauchos plan to keep up their training over Spring Break, which occurs the week before the match.

Overall, UCSB posts a 3-1 record, 1-1 in the league. On Saturday, Santa Barbara will battle with Claremont McKenna at 10 a.m. at Storke Field.