Injury-Depleted Bears Get Set To Host Cal Invitational

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When it hosts the Cal Invitational this weekend, the Cal rugby team will face a challenge more serious than anything it will get from the likes of Norwich, Texas or Washington.

The Bears (10-0), who are cruising through the regular season, have been hit by a rash of injuries this week that will put a strain on the team's depth, especially playing two games in 24 hours.

First-team regulars John Willenborg, Mike Bonetto, Casey Young, Scott Anderson and Kyle Khasigian are all out this week with a variety of injuries, while Alex Houser and Dominique Wasserspiel have sustained shoulder injuries that will require surgery and possibly keep them out for the rest of the season.

"It's really frustrating," senior Eric Andersen said. "We've been doing a lot of tackling drills in practice and guys just get hurt."

Cal will be particularly hard-pressed at the outside center position, where Young and Houser were the top two choices.

"Injuries are to be expected with this sport, especially when the

season starts taking its toll," Bears coach Jack Clark said. "It's tough to play against other teams' top squads on consecutive days when you're shorthanded. We might be running on fumes."

Nevertheless, it's not exactly panic time for Cal.

"We're not going to change our tactics because of this," Clark said. "The approach is based on the players, but we're not crippled enough to have to change plans at this point. We should be able to win our share of possession and play our game."

One of the reasons the Bears were doing so many tackling drills in practice this week stems from what the team considers a substandard defensive performance against Nevada. Despite winning 65-11, players felt disappointed with their tackling.

"It's up to each one of us to take it upon himself (to tackle better)," Andersen said. "Even with the injuries, that's just a chance for new guys to step up and shine. Everyone on this team can play some good rugby."

With the season more than halfway done, the ultimate goal is starting to come into view for the Bears.

"This is the business end of the season," Clark said. "It's critical that we keep working hard and don't go flat going into the playoffs. We have to concentrate on the task at hand."

The Bears will face Norwich, a small military school from Vermont, tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the first round of the tournament.

Despite not being known for athletics in general, the Cadets do have a 150-year tradition in rugby.

"Their program is well-looked after," Clark said. "They'll be a capable and well-organized side."

The Huskies and Longhorns open the tournament with an 11 a.m. matchup tomorrow. The winners will play in the final Sunday at 1 p.m., preceded by the consolation game.


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