The UCSB women’s rugby team picked a great time to shine, playing their best game of the season, defeating rival UC San Diego 27-5 Sunday at Harder Stadium, behind a smothering defense that kept San Diego in check on every possession.
“Our defense was phenomenal, better than it’s been all season, especially in the backfield,” senior team President Phoebe Boone said. “Our offense was also great. We have a very fit team with strong girls who know the game.”
The victory was especially sweet considering it came against the Tritons, who had won a number of close games against UCSB in recent seasons. After losing to San Diego for the last three years, the Gauchos were ready for some payback.
“The last three years, we’ve lost to them by very small margins where if anything had gone our way, we would have won,” Boone said. “It was a really great victory to get. We’ve never scored this much against them before.”
Senior Blair Groefsema and rookie wing Deidre Grace each scored twice to lead the Gauchos. Grace, a senior, is playing her first season after running track for most of her athletic career. On Sunday, she lit up the Triton defense with her speed and aggressiveness.
“[Grace] is very fast and very aggressive, she has a great mentality for rugby,” Boone said. “[Groefsema] is also a really phenomenal player. She went to the under-23 national team last year.”
The Gauchos jumped ahead early after junior Rosie Krauter converted a Triton penalty kick to make the score 3-0. The Tritons almost came back to take the lead on a try, but the Gaucho’s goal-line defense held them back. The Gauchos then went on to score two more tries before halftime.
“Getting on the scoreboard first was absolutely critical to getting our mentality up,” Boone said. “[Krauter] was awesome, going two for four on extra point kicks. Some of our tries were scored at the very end of the field, so she had some really tough angles to kick from. But she knocked them in.”
The Gauchos’ next game will be on Feb. 18 at Arizona State, another rival of UCSB in recent years. Santa Barbara prevailed over the Sun Devils at home earlier this season, but they are prepared for a big test when they go on the road.
“Now we’ve beat our two top contenders in the league, so we’re looking good for [getting to] nationals,” Boone said. “But we know [Arizona State] and UCSD are going to be better the next time we play them, and we have to be ready for that.”