The West Regional – On To Tucson

Here is the West Regional Bracket:

di-aa bracket 2013

After beating Eastern Washington in the NCRC Championship match at Magnuson Park in Seattle, April 13, 38 -14…that is when the fun began for Western.  For some odd reason USA Rugby had sited the West Regional in Austin, Texas with the hosts being the Austin Rugby Club.  When one thinks about that siting and the teams that qualified (Western, Cal State – Chico, and Cal State – Long Beach) and the one ‘at-large’ team (Arizona) that would be included in the bracket, it made no sense at all.  See the story about this in Rugby.mag, click here.

Needless to say, the amount of money that it would take to get the team to Austin was daunting so Director of Rugby, Paul Horne, and Team Manager, Jeff Lombard, began working the phones and gathering support for a change of venue.  At first it looked like the West Regional might be moved to Chico’s campus, then it was on at Treasure Island in San Francisco, and finally they landed in Tucson, Arizona.  The home of the University of Arizona and their fine rugby facility.  And a program led by Dave Sitton, Arizona’s head coach for these past 39 years, that knows how to host national level events such as the West Regional of the USA Rugby D1-AA National Tournament.

Ideally the Regional would have been held in the Bay area so that the three auto qualifiers could drive to the venue.  If the explosive growth of college rugby has shown us anything, and hopefully USA Rugby, it is that most of the programs are club sports and that to keep the sport growing at the college level (and it will keep growing) we have to control costs.  And what is the biggest cost, the biggest budget item that these programs have to deal with?  TRAVEL.

I have to say that Horne and Lombard did an amazing job in getting this thing moved.  The amount of time that Lombard, in particular, spent on the phone borders on the incredible, we wouldn’t be surprised if the guy went in for an ear transplant.  But it is done and everything is set to take place in Tucson this weekend, April 27th and 28th.

So Western flies out Thursday afternoon for Tucson and will have a training session Friday morning on the University of Arizona campus at the Rincon Vista Rugby Pitch.  That should get the boys acclimated to the ninety degree heat, right?  We’ll see.  The other two teams, Cal State – Chico and Cal State – Long Beach arrive later in the day and will train Friday afternoon.

The matches are set as follows on Saturday, April 27th.  Western Washington University will take on Cal State – Chico at 11:00 am and Cal State Long Beach will play Arizona in the other semi-final match that will kick-off at 12:30 pm.  The losers of the first day’s matches will meet the following morning, Sunday, April 28 to determine 3rd and 4th, while the winners kick-off at 12:30 pm, to determine the team that will go to the Final Four at Bowling Green University on May 11th and 12th.  USA Rugby has a whole bunch of info regarding the West Regional event, click here to get to the USA Rugby info and once you’re on the USA Rugby page click on the “Tucson Info” link to see the whole thing.

So now that we have all of that stuff out of the way, who is going to win this thing?  Beats me..  When you get to this point in the season, all the teams left are good.  So here is a little capsule on each of the teams in the West Regional…except Western…you already know all about them, right?

Cal State – Chico:  The school is located about ninety miles north of Sacramento and has around 15,000 students.  The school has been around since the late 1880’s and, like Western, started out as a “Teachers College”.  They can trace their rugby roots back to 1918, but have been focused on the “modern game” since the late 60’s or early 70’s.  Chico State’s faces teams like Humboldt State, San Jose State, San Francisco State and University of Nevada, Reno, in the Pacific Mountain Rugby Conference, which, like our NCRC, has eight member schools.  Chico walked through their league this year going 7-0 and out scoring their opponents 452-96 in those seven games.  They played Sierra Junior College in their conference semi-final tournament and took care of them 31-12.  The met Cal State – Santa Cruz (2nd in the regular conference standings at 5-2) in their conference final and pounded them 60-7.  In trying to get a sense of how good the Wildcats  are, they did have a match in the fall against Cal Poly and lost 33-18.  Cal Poly plays in the same league as St Marys and give St Mary’s fits so the Wildcats to appear to ‘have game’.  Led by head Coach Beau McSwain, they have 44 players on their roster with nine senior players who provide the experience and leadership.  They have an outstanding no.8 in senior Mike Morello who leads the forwards both offensively and defensively, while senior winger, and team captain, Tyler Poland leads the backs.

Cal State – Long Beach:  The school is located in Long Beach and has an enrollment of about 36,000 students.  It is one of the hardest schools in the Cal State system to get into with an acceptance rate of about 34% and the average GPA for incoming freshmen of about 3.4.  The school started in 1949 and the rugby club has been in existence since 1974.  The club is quite active and have toured every couple of years, the latest being to Australia/New Zealand in 2011 and they have a tour to Italy scheduled this fall.  Led by Head Coach Kyle Quinn, the 49’ers play in the Pacific Mountain Rugby Conference with teams like Claremont, Santa Barbara City College, USC, and Cal State – Fullerton.  The 49’ers breezed through their conference with a 6-1 record, outscoring their opponents 387-84 in the process, and losing only to Santa Barbara City College 16-15 on March 2nd.  They didn’t get a chance to avenge that loss as Santa Barbara lost to Claremont 32-12 in the Pacific Mountain semis.  Long Beach beat CSU – Fullerton 30-0 in the other semi and then beat Claremont 28-11 in the final to earn their spot in the West Regional.

University of Arizona:  The school is located in Tucson, Arizona and has an enrollment of about 40,000 students.  The school has been around since 1885 and is a member ot the PAC-12 Conference.  The rugby club is led by legendary Head Coach Dave Sitton who has been at the helm for 39 years.  Arizona has been quite successful in rugby, especially in recent years, and play a schedule with the other PAC-12 programs.  They’ve also played a tough non-conference schedule against the likes of San Diego State (won 34-19), Air Force Academy (won 46-28), and Notre Dame (won 17-5).  The Wildcats have an 8-4 record coming into the West Regional and look to be the team to beat.  Losses to Cal, Utah, Arizona State, and UCLA were to be expected.  They avenged the Arizona State loss with a win against them on 16-10 a few weeks ago.  They also played Oregon State and beat the Beavers 27-23.

So there you have it, the teams Western has to defeat to get to the Final Four of the D1-AA National Rugby Tournament.

One more time:  Saturday, April 27th  CSU – Chico vs Western at 11:00 am and CSU – Long Beach vs Arizona at 12:30 pm.