As it prepares for its game against the top-ranked collegiate rugby team in the nation, Cal, the UCSB men’s rugby team is working hard and having fun.
“We’ve been doing pretty much what we usually do at this time of year,” junior Kyle McBride said. “It’s too late to start doing anything differently, so we’re just concentrating really hard on what we’ve been doing right all season. We’ve also been having a little bit of fun in practice, because when it comes down to it, it is a game. We take it very seriously, but we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”
At the same time, the team knows exactly what it needs to do right to be able to win one of the biggest games in the program’s history. Cal has won the last 14 division I rugby titles, so a Gaucho victory would be a huge upset. But the Gauchos feel that if they can play to their strengths, pulling off an upset is possible.
“Our tackling is going to be critical; Cal is one of the best running teams in the nation,” McBride said. “If we let them slip tackles, they’ll hurt us pretty bad, so we need to stay in front of guys, and not let them get by us.”
The Gauchos were a great defensive team over the course of the regular season, but against Cal, the team will have to execute to perfection. McBride said the team has been working hard in practice, focusing on tackles and ball movements: The areas the team feels will be most critical in the upcoming game.
“We have to make sure that our set moves come off right and we’re not dropping passes,” McBride said. “We need to continue with what we’re doing, stay the course, keep doing what we’ve done right and we can put a hurt on Cal.”
The team plans to leave early Friday morning and arrive in Berkeley sometime Friday afternoon. After their practice, the Gauchos will commemorate the occasion with a formal dinner with alumni, friends and family.
“We’re really looking forward to it, getting together with the people we play for,” McBride said. “All the history these people bring, it goes beyond the 22 guys selected to play on the field.”