MORAGA, Calif. – St. Mary’s and Cal Poly will play yet another crucial game, but the stakes are much higher than they were when the two teams met in March. A shot at the National Championship is on the line.
PATH TO THE PLAYOFFS
St. Mary’s went to San Luis Obispo and pinched a 41-31 win over the Mustangs, a tight match that ultimately decided the conference champion and more importantly, seeding for the playoffs.
Poly’s loss meant they would have to play-in against Central Washington to reach the quarterfinals, a daunting proposition. But Poly caught a break.
Central Washington dropped out of D1A, giving Cal Poly something of a pass in the play-in round. If CWU would have stayed in, Poly would have had to take on Central in Ellensburg, Wash., for a spot in the quarterfinals.
But, what happened happened and instead Poly had a week to prepare for Colorado State in the quarters and went to Ft. Collins and took care of Colorado State 40-19.
St. Mary’s has been outstanding all year, going undefeated in the conference and seeking out top competition. Their favorable seed saw them take on the West #2 seed, Colorado, in Moraga and after a tight first half, put their foot down in the second and ran out 65-25 winners over a spirited but ultimately outgunned Buffaloes team.
A LOOK AT THE PAST
Cal Poly’s win at Colorado State propelled the Mustangs into their first national semifinal since 2004.
The Gaels, on the other hand, were in the semifinals last year against Arkansas State in Moraga, a game that will not be easily forgotten by the St. Mary’s boys.
Arkansas State overcame a five point deficit with 20 minutes to go and a late barrage of tries saw the home team’s National Championship hopes slip away as the Red Wolves finished 31-17 winners.
But the maturity and poise of the St. Mary’s team and a few stern tests this season (Cal and, of course, Cal Poly) will go a long way in the postseason.
LIVE AND LEARN
Neither team will be looking past the semifinal. Poly feels they let themselves down the last time they played St. Mary’s and know they can do better this time around.
Cal Poly co-captain Ben Crosby said, “After (the St. Mary’s) match we were very proud of our hard fought performance against such a top side, but at the same time were disappointed we allowed them to score some easy tries, Crosby said.
“Our defensive focus and pressure has only gotten better since then, and we’ll certainly have a big emphasis on that this weekend.”
St. Mary’s knows Poly is a real threat and will have only gotten better since March. The clash that loomed large in conference play now has national implications.
The semifinal between these two California rivals will kickoff at 2 p.m. MT at St. Mary’s.