Cal Poly Rugby is currently #9 in the D1a Top 20 leading into the regular season beginning in 2016. The top-ten team had high expectations coming into the fall after a playoff berth last season and looked to fill the hole left by graduating players.
The team competed in both 7s and 15s, with much more success coming with the latter. Cal Poly played in two 7s tournaments and went 3-5.
The Cal Poly 1st team, also known as the 1st XV, finished with a 6-0 record in their fixtures this fall. Three of these came on Oct. 24 in a tournament at UC Santa Cruz. In the three other matches, Cal Poly played Chico State, Fresno Rugby Club, and Santa Barbara Rugby Academy.
Two opponents completely withdrew from matches with Cal Poly, along with many reserve sides not being able to field a team against Cal Poly’s reserves.
“Most of the challenges we’ve faced this year have just been actually getting games this preseason,” Club President Zach Markow said, “trying to get playing time and experience for our younger players has been a bit of a struggle.”
With depth being a concern, playing as many games as possible will help players filling in important roles by getting them more seasoned for 1st XV play.
Sophomore players were also expected to step up. Using the same game plan as last year, Head Coach James Tesoriero hoped that the continuity would be helpful for the veteran players.
“What we lost in terms of talent I was hoping we could make up in terms of continuity,” Tesoriero said, “we should be equally competitive.”
Even though Cal Poly’s 1st XV went undefeated this fall, the team thought they could’ve played better, and still have high expectations for the season.
Many of the opponents Cal Poly faced this fall were in lower division, like D1aa and Division II teams. Cal Poly will start to play tougher teams beginning Jan. 30 against Cal, who competes in the Varsity Cup.
There are some good overall signs of the team’s play according to Tesoriero which will help once the more competitive matches start.
“The young guys have come through and really stood up and made claims for the 1st XV jersey,” Tesoriero said, “and our fitness is really good, in all of our trial matches we’ve finished the game stronger than the opposition.”
Beginning his coaching tenure last year, Tesoriero noted how the veteran players look much better and organized in the style of play implemented.
“12 months down the track with the same group of guys, going through the same kind of systems, I think we’re a whole lot more organized.” Tesoriero said.
To help get the team prepared even further, Cal Poly Rugby will host a training camp starting Dec. 11 with #1 Saint Mary’s. Tesoriero said that bringing in an opposition will help the team to do more than go through the motions, and will give the new players a taste of what’s to come.
“It’s going to be a big step for us to learn from [St. Mary’s] and play with them, but we definitely have to get better.” Industrial Technology Senior Sean Gorman said.
Hopefully for the team, the camp will make up for some of the game time lost from opposing teams withdrawing from fixtures.
Additionally, practice against a conference rival will help prepare the team for not only it’s match against St. Mary’s, but also for the other California Conferencematchups.
“St. Mary’s, San Diego State and Santa Clara will all be quite tough.” Tesoriero said.
Cal Poly will need to have a favorable record against these teams to get a good spot in the playoffs, which the team expects to make after the end of the regular season.
“We’re certainly hoping to get a playoff berth again” Tesoriero said,
“the guys who traveled out to Utah last year and lost that playoff game last year will be a whole lot stronger for the experience.”
Cal Poly is looking past the first round of playoffs. With a loss against Utah in the first round last year, the team has its eyes set on the second round.
“We’re hoping to get to that second round and make a deeper push into playoffs this year.”Gorman said.
Gorman said it will be a challenge, but the team expects to make improvements.
Cal Poly Rugby impressed in it’s preseason, but they will have to step up their game come January.