Young Bears Get Opportunity to Start Against Sierra College

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The Cal rugby team that takes the field on Saturday will not be the same squad that stormed back against British Columbia or steamrolled San Diego State and UC Davis this season.

In tomorrow's strictly underclassmen affair, coach Jack Clark hopes that the young players donning the blue and gold this weekend will be accomplishing similar feats in the years to come.

Clark scheduled the tilt against Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., at 1 p.m. to prepare for that future. Given that Sierra is a two-year college, the contest will not count toward the Bears' 17-0 overall record.

"There's not enough games for (the freshmen and sophomores)," Clark said. "This is an opportunity for these guys to go get some competition and to see if they can get some of the things we've been working on in training for them specifically onto the field in competition."

Getting into actual games is an essential element to players' and the program's development, according to Clark.

"We don't get to go out and bring in four- or five-star recruits to reload through a scholarship mechanism," he said. "What we have to do is develop our top players every year."

For Saturday's starters, however, the goal is more immediate than overall maturation. It is about proving themselves here and now to the coaches in order to garner more playing time.

For some, this weekend will mark the first game action they have seen since a Las Vegas tournament six weeks ago. One such player is sophomore scrumhalf Jose Pena, who had eagerly anticipated a scheduled opportunity to start against UC Santa Cruz on Feb. 27.

Though Pena and his teammates were ready to go, the field at UCSC was not fit for competition due to rain, and the match was postponed.

"When I found out it wasn't going to happen, I was just on a hill and it all just went down emotionally," Pena said. "Now (Saturday's match) is the only one I might start for the rest of the season, so I really feel excited and like I have to prove something."

The Wolverines may be a community college team, but the Bears certainly are not sleeping on Sierra. The team, coached by Dr. Michael H. Taylor, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, recently cracked RugbyMag's top 15 Division II teams and stands atop its conference.

"For all we know, they could be a big, hard-hitting team," freshman flanker/No. 8 Jason Fry said. "We're going to play our rugby and not assume this is going to be an easy match."

For the Wolverines, this is an opportunity to gear up for the playoffs.

"We're just playing as we would for playoffs and Cal's just another step in playoffs," Taylor said. "I just want everybody to get the opportunity to perform at their highest against a very high quality team."


Christina Jones covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected]

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