After finishing a respectable 8-6 overall and 6-3 in the Southern California Conference during the 2008 regular season, the UCSB men’s rugby team looks to close out the 2009 preseason against Utah after going 1-1 at the Pat Vincent Tournament hosted by Saint Mary’s College the weekend of Nov. 20.

The Gauchos (1-1-1 overall) lost 32-25 to #11 Central Washington (4-1) in the tournament’s opening round before dismantling Loyola Marymount (0-3) 51-0 in the consolation match. Earlier this year, Santa Barbara tied Chico State (1-2) at home for their first win of the preseason.

“We had a really big crowd against Chico State,” said sophomore lock Patrick Kealy, “almost 300 students. For a club team that’s pretty good.”

Santa Barbara will be out of commission for the month of December before playing their last pre-season game against Utah (4-1-1) at a neutral site in Las Vegas on Jan. 16. Utah’s only loss of the preseason came on the road against Central Washington, the same Wildcat team that handed Santa Barbara their only loss weeks later. For a team that outscored Oregon State and Idaho State 169-6 in their first two preseason wins, Utah was held to only seven points during the 25-7 loss.

UCSB plays in the SCC, a club league comprised of Cal Poly, San Diego State, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego, UCSD, and Claremont. Last year the Gauchos finished fourth with 29 points overall, 16 points behind conference-champion San Diego State. The Aztecs are the only SCC team to have ever won the national championship in college rugby’s 28 year run, facing stiff competition in UC Berkeley, a school that has won 23 of 28 possible national championships. However, the Gauchos still like their chances.

“This year we have a lot of sophomores, last year we had a lot of seniors,” said Kealy. “We definitely look like a pretty strong team. I’d say some of our better players are junior lock Guy Western and Ross Silverman who’s our 8-man, he’s getting looked at to play overseas.”

After facing Utah in Las Vegas, UCSB will take the week off before opening conference play on Jan. 30 against UCLA at 7:30pm.