The Mustangs travel north to play the California Golden Bears on Saturday, April 8 in the College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) D1A playoffs opening round.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Witter Rugby Field in Berkeley. The match will be streamed live on Pac-12’s website, Pac-12.com.
Cal Poly, the No. 6 seed in the West Region, is on a two-match win streak following their spring break Texas tour. The Mustangs defeated No. 12 Texas A&M 36-13 in College Station, Texas, in a match that wasn’t as close as the scoreline indicated. The Mustangs followed that up with an 82-10 victory over the Baylor Bears. Texas A&M managed to snag the No. 6 seed in the East Region bracket of the playoffs.
“We’re definitely excited and up for the challenge this weekend,” senior Will Nogrady said, who will start at scrumhalf for the Mustangs. “It’s hard not to get fired up about playoff rugby, especially when you’re playing a program with the reputation and tradition like Cal.”
The Cal Bears (7-3) are on a three-match skid entering tomorrow’s match — all of which came against opponents ranked in the CRAA top 7.
The Bears, who are the No. 3 seed and currently ranked 5th in the March CRAA Power Rankings, lost to No. 7 BYU in Provo, Utah last week, 50-14, although the Bears featured a largely second-side roster, according to Alex Goff of Goff Rugby Report. Cal lost to Saint Mary’s 38-34 in Berkeley on March 25. The Bears lost to the undefeated Naval Academy 33-28 the week prior in Annapolis, Maryland.
Those three losses are the only blemishes on an otherwise impressive record for Cal. The Bears handily defeated UCLA, Arizona, and Grand Canyon University. All three programs reside in the CRAA top 15.
“We expect them to play physical within the 15-meter lines and then look to use their speed out wide to finish,” Nogrady said of the Bears. “For us, it’s going to come down to line speed and physicality and the boys are going to have to put in a big defensive shift to stop their attack, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”
Senior Jack Schirmer echoed those sentiments, adding: “We have to rise to the physicality they will bring,” he said. “We have grown as a team throughout the year and I’m positive we’ll show what the Cal Poly defense has to offer.”
Most notably, the Bears defeated defending national champion Army West Point 31-14 on March 4.
“It’s awesome to have this group of rag-tag guys who are fired up to play a big school like Cal,” Schirmer said, who plays hooker. “We know we’re the underdog and we’re happy to be. We have nothing to lose; they have everything to lose. Why not us?”
The Mustangs and Bears haven’t met in 80-minute-long 15s rugby since 2019. Cal Poly and Cal last matched up in the 2022 Dennis Storer Classic, a preseason round-robin-like event featuring shortened, 20-minute halves.
This is the Mustangs’ second playoff appearance under second-year head coach Chris O’Brien. The Mustangs lost to Central Washington in the first round of the 2022 D1A playoffs.
Match Day 23 vs. Cal
- Quinton Tindel (Vice Captain)
- Jack Schirmer
- Wiley Geiger
- Gianni Greco
- Wyatt O’Connor
- Michael McPherson
- Jack Zilligen
- Ryan Wenstrom
- Will Nogrady
- Jack Marchant (Captain)
- Luke McKernan
- Coby Baker
- Dylan Caillouel
- Nate Vanderklugt
- Nicho Domine
- Drew Dilauro
- Will Scherer
- Declan Tucker
- Logan Foster
- Austin Arends
- Julian DeRaffele
- Peter Mazolewski
- Dan King