Title Reclamation Quest Begins

Photo: Senior lock Eric Fry and the Bears face a familiar opponent in UCLA on Saturday in the national collegiate rugby playoffs' round of 16.
Skyler Reid/File
Senior lock Eric Fry and the Bears face a familiar opponent in UCLA on Saturday in the national collegiate rugby playoffs' round of 16.

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2010 NCAA Rugby Playoff Preview

Gabriel Baumgaertner and Katie Dowd preview the Cal rugby team's playoff venture to Marietta, Ga.

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For three years he's helped quarterback the Cal rugby team as its starting flyhalf position, but it's Keegan Engelbrecht's fourth trip through the national collegiate rugby playoffs.

As a sophomore, he booted five try conversions when the Cal rugby team rolled over BYU in the 2008 national championship game.

As a junior, he was a part of all six scoring plays in the Bears' stunning national championship loss to BYU.

After this year's 39-7 thrashing of continental rival, University of British Columbia in the "World Cup" series, Thunderbirds head coach Spence McTavish praised Engelbrecht's ability to "put the ball on a dime" and claimed that it was one of the versatile Cal teams that he'd ever seen.

So what does Cal need to do against UCLA on Saturday to advance to Sunday's round of eight?

Count on its whole team.

"We've got to put a team on the field against UCLA that's going to give us a win," Engelbrecht said. "And at the same time we need to rest players for the stronger team in either LSU or Penn State. It's a balancing act in assuring the win and resting players."

The Bears travel to Marietta, Ga., to take on the Bruins this Saturday at 1 p.m., and if they win, the winner of seventh-seeded Penn State and No. 10 seed LSU on Sunday at 12 p.m.

Cal should know what UCLA will bring. Coach Jack Clark's squad raced passed the Bruins 76-0 and 28-3 in shortened 40-minute games at the UCLA Tournament in January.

The Bruins may be a familiar foe, but not much is known about the Nittany Lions or Tigers.

"For most teams, you haven't heard much about them." Engelbrecht said. "You certainly haven't played those teams either."

Well, not much is known about these Nittany Lions.

Cal defeated Penn State in four championship games between 1996 and 2001, but have not faced coach Don Ferrell's squad since.

If the Bears square off with Penn State (16-3), they will encounter a team on a tear. The Nittany Lions have won their last seven games and 13 of their last 15. Penn State's three regular-season losses came by a combined six points.

Conversely, LSU isn't exactly roaring into the playoffs. The Tigers were throttled by the tournament's fifth seed, Texas A&M, 35-0, in their last game of the regular season. The Tigers did, however, make it to the 2009 quarterfinal.

On the same side of the bracket sit familiar foes San Diego State and St. Mary's, and dangerous, unfamiliar teams like sixth-seeded Arkansas State.

"There are a lot of teams that get a couple good players and good coaching staffs and find their way into the postseason," Engelbrecht said. "We need as much intel as we can get about these teams, but sometimes we're just not going to know a whole lot about them."


Contact Gabriel Baumgaertner at gbaumgaertner@dailycal.org.

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