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UCSC Slugs Outs West Coast Win

  • 12 Mar 2019
  • 46 Views

Photo: Jackie Finlan

University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) hosted nearby rivals California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on a cold, wet and windy day, as another storm from the Aleutians battered the California coastline. The teams battled rain, hail and 38-degree wind chill, but the Banana Slugs emerged as the 26-14 victors, the team’s first and final win of the DII West Coast Conference season.

It’s been a wet and rainy Northern California winter, and there have been more than a few Saturday games played with very chilly air. But this day, which evolved on UCSC’s Lower Field (800 ft. elev.), a few hundred feet lower than the rest of campus in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, might have been the coldest one yet that I’ve attended as a spectator, touch judge, or referee. Scotland-born NorCal referee Neil McDonald, there for the later men’s match, commented on how it was warmer in Edinburgh for the Scotland-Wales test earlier in the day. He was to touch judge for his 14-year-old son Gordon, who was refereeing his very first match.

UCSC won the toss and elected to defend the west end of the pitch, and take the wind the first half as well. Quite a number of Sea Otters had tights on under their shorts, and a few were wearing long sleeves under their jerseys. It appeared some players were already nearing hypothermia when the kickoff took place, as they were already wet from warming up, an oxymoron this day.

UCSC completely dominated play at the start, scoring an unconverted try within the first few minutes, and ending the first 40 minutes ahead 26-0, after scoring an additional three converted tries. CSUMB didn’t have very much possession, and with the wet and near-freezing conditions, there were a number of knock-ons by either side. UCSC’s backline managed to hang onto the ball enough times to spin it out to the left wing, Vanessa Shaffer, who scored two of the Banana Slugs’ tries, one a long-distance run in which she juked past her first defender, and then outpaced the Otter fullback to the try line.

The second half resumed after a halftime in which UCSC’s men’s coach took out to the pitch a wheel barrow and shoveled some sand onto a patch that had a few inches of standing water, between the 22 and 10-meter line on the western half. Needless to say, this took up some extra time, and players on either team, in the meantime, were standing around in wet kit listening to their coaches, huddled together with blankets and towels thrown over them, and under tents that each team had set up on the touchline. At least there was no muddy kit, as there is sand-based soil under the well-manicured grass at UCSC, and the field usually drains well to boot.

The rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing steadily from the southwest. CSUMB, now with the wind at their backs, were able to keep the ball in UCSC’s end almost the entire second half. They scored two converted tries by Sadie Brown and Mariana Henke, who had a long dash to score from near halfway, both under the posts, making for easy conversion attempts by flyhalf Kate McGill.

Twelve minutes remained as the score was now 26-14. Unfortunately, handling errors ruined any chance to score again and make the game closer, and UCSC’s flyhalf, Loren Roundtree, relieved some pressure with a few kicks from behind her 22, against the wind, that found the distance to force Cal State’s fullback and her teammates to turn around and retreat to cover back to the halfway line.

With the game’s end, both teams celebrated as though there wasn’t a loser or winner. Overall, though, it has been a disappointing year for either school, CSUMB having only beaten Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in December and Sacramento State in January, and UCSC with their only win Saturday, as both schools wrapped up their West Coast Collegiate Division II schedules.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LARRY FREITAS lives in Aptos, Calif., on the Central Coast and has refereed in Northern California Rugby Union Referee Society for last few decades. He’s played for Santa Clara University, San Diego Rugby Club, Santa Cruz Rebels, and California Bald Eagles. Retired English and history teacher, and besides volunteering time for rugby refereeing duties, a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Author of a novel, “Margaret McCole,” about a fictitious pioneer woman surfer whose father played rugby at Stanford during the rugby-playing era in California of 1906-1918. Available online at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

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