Arizona, San Diego State meet in Top 20 showdown

D1A Rugby: Arizona, San Diego State meet in Top 20 showdown
Photo Credit: Bryan Cox

More Canterbury Top 20 non-conference action is slated for this Saturday out west, as #19 San Diego State hosts #11 Arizona.

The Aztecs continue to find their definitive style of rugby early in the season. Combined with a friendly, defensive battle against Cal Poly in January, their offensive game struggled against #4 BYU, then found better success versus Sacramento State last week. As their identity search goes on, head coach Alex Lichtig implied it is a matter of time before the all the pieces fall in to place.

“Our team’s style of play is still evolving,” Lichtig said. “We have been working through different combinations and systems trying to find what suits us best. Right now we have the right guys on the bus, but we’re still working to put them all in the right seats.” 

Their next test comes on the heels of the Wildcats, who are looking to make it four wins in a row.

“When you’re looking at an opponent like the University of Arizona, there is no silver bullet that will give us the result,” Lichtig added. “They are a quality side that has shown their class over the past few weeks against some tough competition. We are focusing on turning in a strong performance for 80 minutes and will let the results be what they will.” 

Arizona also rolls into San Diego with the additional motivation to continue rising in the Top 20. The Wildcats have gotten off to fast starts in their last two outings against UCLA and Grand Canyon. In the latter matchup, five separate Wildcats recorded tries in their 50-12 win, including three by sophomore wing Jeremy Fleet, a San Diego native.

For the Aztecs, there were positives in their 50-14 loss to BYU, most notably putting numbers around the ball and more importantly being patient with possession. It was time consuming, but ultimately benefited San Diego State by getting points on the board. That same formula could be an early key to halting Arizona from repeating an early offensive surge.

Coach Lichtig was quick to give credit to props Adahir Aguilera and Jake Jorstad, who’s performances have not faltered since their 2016 All-Conference seasons thus far.

“Adahir has continued to be a leader with his physical and consistent play. He quietly does the small things well which add up to a big impact for us,” he added. “Jake is developing and getting better everyday. He is physically imposing, but is still developing a full tool set to become a complete player. His physicality and hard work have certainly set the tone during many matches and training session.”

He also cited Nick Lupian, who is “dynamic” and always a threat when the ball is in his hands, and Ari Flink, the core of the Aztecs’ backline.