BERKELEY – California enters the national postseason Saturday, April 19, in the Super Regional round of the Varsity Cup National Championships against UCLA at 3 p.m. on North Athletic Field in Los Angeles.
The Golden Bears (16-2, 5-0 PAC) will be striving for a season sweep in their third meeting of the season with a Bruins team that has proved to be quite capable. In February on Witter Rugby Field, Cal logged five tries in the final 40 minutes to seal a second-half comeback. One month prior, Cal was held to two tries in an 18-3 victory over its hosts in the final of the Dennis Storer Classic.
Since their most recent meeting, Cal has gone 6-2, rising to No. 1 nationally as it claimed its second straight PAC conference title and beat Ivy champ Dartmouth before dropping its past two matches at British Columbia and Saint Mary’s. Along the way, the Bears lost several key players, most recently All-America winger Josh Tucker and starting hooker Michael Bush, to season-ending injuries. Now the national No. 4, the Bears have a challenge over 80 minutes Saturday to outplay a Bruins team that is sure to be energized in front of its home crowd in an elimination scenario.
“No doubt we are patching our team together, but we feel strangely calm,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We can still field a strong team and we’re capable of defeating the Bruins. We need to play hard and mostly well, but we can win.”
In the first round of the 12-team Varsity Cup bracket, the No. 5 Bruins (12-2, 4-1 PAC) dispatched Oklahoma, 77-12, on April 12 to set up their Super Regional clash with the Rugby Bears. UCLA is now on a five-match win streak since it lost a 10-0 halftime lead and the match to Cal on February 22 in a battle broadcasted live on Pac-12 Networks.
Coach Clark said his belief in the Bears’ ability to beat the Bruins in the Super Regional “takes nothing away from UCLA. They have proven they are a top team, solid in every area of play. They are well coached and have excellent team leadership. They’ve earned our respect.”
Other first-round teams who advanced in the opening weekend of the Varsity Cup National Championships were Dartmouth, 59-24 winners over Clemson in Hanover, N.H., to send the Big Green into the Annapolis Super Regional vs. Brigham Young on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET; Texas, which beat Notre Dame, 55-33, in South Bend and will now face the Midshipmen in Annapolis Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET; and Utah, which beat Air Force, 77-24, in Colorado Springs to set up its Los Angeles Super Regional clash against Central Washington, a 1 p.m. PT kickoff on Saturday.
If Cal defeats UCLA this weekend, the Rugby Bears will host a Varsity Cup National Championship semifinal as the higher seed April 26 on Witter Rugby against the winner of Utah-Central Washington. The semifinal winners advance to the final held May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City and broadcast on NBC Sports Network. For tickets and other information, visit VarsityCup.us.
Following the finale of their 15s season, the Bears will return to Philadelphia May 31-June 1 for the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s, also to be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and NBC. For CRC tickets, please make all purchases via http://www.usasevenscrc.com/tickets/cal.