All eyes on the Bay Area as Saint Mary’s visits Cal

D1A Rugby: All eyes on the Bay Area as Saint Mary’s visits Cal
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater (above & homepage)

BOULDER, Colo. – After a deflating road trip to Utah that saw a Saint Mary’s side mixed with starters and reserves lose to the University of Utah and a laboring first XV fall to BYU the following day, the Gaels are back in California and focused on their next test – a March 28 match versus Cal.

D1A’s No. 2-ranked squad has had time to recover from the Utah trip both mentally and physically, but there is no denying the team was disappointed from its winless weekend.

“When you go 0-2 in a week when you thought you’d go 2-0 there is a little bit of a shock factor to your mental resolve,” explained Saint Mary’s AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Kingsley McGowan.

The shock and disappointment out of the Saint Mary’s camp is understandable after relinquishing double-digit leads against BYU in two games separated by two weeks.

“It was physically brutal, but more mentally trying,” McGowan said. “To be up 16 points 30 minutes into the game against BYU and to see it slip away was pretty tough,” McGowan admitted.

Fortunately for the Gaels, the current task of preparing for Cal is more than enough to get Saint Mary’s minds far removed from the two-match losing streak and focused on beating the Bears.

Separated by less than 15 miles, the rivalry between Saint Mary’s and Cal has become increasingly fierce, as the Gaels’ rugby program has grown to national prominence. No longer the Bay Area’s junior varsity rugby team, Saint Mary’s has won two of the past three meetings with Berkeley after dropping 21 consecutive matches from 1991 to 2011.

Last season, the Gaels ran all over the Bears to the tune of 55-31 in a match that wasn’t as close as the score line would suggest. Regardless of recent success, Saint Mary’s understands it will have its hands full when it steps inside the touchlines at Cal’s Witter Rugby Field.

“Tactically, Cal is probably the best team I’ve ever played against,” McGowan complimented.

That’s not to say McGowan is only impressed with the Bears’ ability to execute a game plan. The outside center also raved about Cal’s size, athleticism, and depth.One player that possesses the combination of size and athleticism McGowan describes is a fellow All-American in Cal flanker Alec Gletzer. Now back to form after missing a few games due to injury, Gletzer is a game-changing talent who should absorb plenty of attention from the Gaels.

In the 2014 rendition of the rivalry, Saint Mary’s ability to play fast and wide seemed to overwhelm the Bears. In order for back line linebreakers Dylan Audsley, McGowan, and Nick Schlobohm to put each other into space, clean ball must be had between half backs Mike McCarthy and Holden Yungert.

Adding to the excitement of Saturday’s Bay Area showdown will be a live televised broadcast of the match provided by the Pac-12 Network. For fans without access to the Pac-12 Network, the game will also be available on its website.