After an incredible undefeated season, the Gauchos (10-0) will face Bowling Green University (9-0) in the Final Four this afternoon at Steuber Rugby Stadium at Stanford University to fight for the title.
This is the first time in Gaucho history that the men’s rugby team has progressed this far in the U.S.A. National Collegiate Rugby Championships. The squad has failed to make it to nationals since 2006, yet has made an astonishing comeback season this year with the senior leadership of Captain Mitchell Raisch and President Ryan O’Leary.
“Given the amount of hard work and sacrifices the team has put in to the season, it was nice to get the results. That’s what we’ve been working towards.” Head Coach Kevin Battle said.
UCSB came back from a 17-0 deficit to defeat Stanford University 33-17 on May 1 at Harder Stadium. Freshman wing Jonathan Prickett, sophomore flanker Hunter Sapp, and Junior wing John Gallo’s tries and conversions put UCSB ahead in the second half.
“Initially we weren’t executing the plan, we weren’t moving the ball well, so we just made a couple of adjustments with some personnel,” Battle said. “The boys never gave up, and once we got things to click we stayed on top of things.”
This time around, the coaches are focusing on implementing the game plan from the outset, ensuring the team is disciplined and follows the patterns.
“We have tremendous speed on the outside, we have guys who can make people miss. We’re very strong in the front as well,” Battle said. “What we really have to focus on is us being at our best and make other teams have to adjust to us.”
According to junior hooker Rob Corsi, Bowling Green brings both size and speed to the table, with a couple of players who have made the U.S.A. Men’s National Rugby Team.
“They’re going to be extremely tough and we’re gonna need to be on our game to have a chance of success. I’m confident we can win this.” Battle said.
Harvard University and Davenport University will join UCSB and Bowling Green in the championships. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. this afternoon at Stanford University. The winners of today’s games will compete for the title Saturday at 4 p.m.