April 16, 2013
Varsity Cup National Championships Super Regional: Sat. April 27 - Cal vs. Notre Dame 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT Webcast Live (subscription required) | Venue: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium | Bracket | Varsity Cup Website | CRC 7s Tickets | Register as a Fan, Player or Parent | Twitter | YouTube
BERKELEY - No. 1 nationally ranked California begins its postseason Saturday, April 20, in Annapolis, Md., where the Golden Bears face Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m. ET in the Super Regional round of the Varsity Cup National Championships at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Varsity Cup's eight-team knockout championship starts with Cal (19-0, 5-0 PAC) and the Irish and continues with Dartmouth vs. Navy at 3:30 p.m. ET in the Eastern Super Region at the U.S. Naval Academy (see bracket). Live webcasts of both matches are available by subscription at Navysports.com.
On the same day in Los Angeles, the Western Super Region of the Varsity Cup features BYU against UCLA at 4 p.m. PT, preceded by Central Washington vs. Air Force at 2 p.m. PT. Those contests can also be seen live online on the Varsity Cup YouTube channel.
Comprising 31 of the past 33 national collegiate champions, these eight teams will battle to decide the semifinal matchups held one week later at the venues of the higher-seeded winners, which gives the Bears an opportunity to play an April 27 semifinal on Witter Rugby Field if they advance past the Irish.
"It doesn't get any better than single-elimination national championship rugby," said Cal head coach Jack Clark.
The Varsity Cup national champion will be crowned May 4 at the final in Provo, Utah, home of the BYU Cougars.
At this weekend's Super Regionals, the Bears and Irish will renew a history that extends deep into their pasts. When Notre Dame came to California Memorial Stadium on April 8, 1967, for a match covered extensively by Sports Illustrated as the national championship, the Rugby Bears bested the Fighting Irish, 37-3.
"The University of Notre Dame is thrilled to be playing Cal this weekend to rekindle this great rivalry at the Varsity Cup," said Irish coach Sean O'Leary. "It's a great opportunity to be tested against the best."
The 2013 Irish enter the Super Regional with quality wins this spring over Big Ten finalist Ohio State and PAC Rugby's Arizona State. Notre Dame's personnel includes flanker Bobby Manfreda, who has also excelled as a boxer in the 194-pound division in South Bend; and Sean Peterson, a Sacramento native and graduate of Jesuit High School who has featured for the Irish at scrumhalf and flyhalf.
Coming on the heels of their 42-31 thriller over Saint Mary's on April 13, the Bears have the shortest amount of time to prepare for the postseason that they've encountered in many years. Cal has focused on rapid recovery from its contest with the Gaels and will be tasked to defeat the Irish following cross-country travel with some of its better players still on the mend.
Starters such as freshman flyhalf Russell Webb, sophomore Andrew Battaglia and inside center Jared Braun are unlikely to make the trip to the U.S. Naval Academy following as they recover from injuries, and other star players such as flanker Alec Gletzer may also be left in Berkeley.
While all players carry physical hardships into every competition by this point of the season, the Bears hope to advance past Notre Dame with some of their best on the shelf. The goal, as is always the case in a postseason elimination scenario, is to win and advance.
"Notre Dame will be a prepared, spirited opponent," said Clark. "The travel and the turnaround from last Saturday will be difficult on our boys. The situation has our full attention."
If their plans are successful, the Bears will come away with a win over Notre Dame to earn one more chance to play in front of fans in an April 27 semifinal.
To learn more about the Varsity Cup, visit varsitycup.us.