Wildcats face Golden Bears for a shot at varsity cup finals
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Central will be facing off with the University of California Golden Bears in the semifinal round of the varsity cup Saturday in Berkeley, California.
This is Central’s third-straight semifinal appearances. The last two ended in losses to national powerhouse Brigham Young University.
“It’d be huge for us to get past semifinals,” said junior Scott Dean, half-fly for the Wildcats. “We’ve lost at the semifinals the last few years, so it’s exciting for everyone to do something we’ve never done and hit that next benchmark.”
Aside from facing a new team at semifinals, the team also introduces a new roster, and an adjusted and different training regime to address the difficulties they faced last year.
“I think we’ve always been a little small in the previous years, and this year our training was focused on bulking people up,” said head coach Tony Pacheco. “We’ve also brought in quite a few new guys and some core seniors, so we have a mature team.”
Senior Aladdin Schirmer, eight-man and team captain, is seeing the change from last season when the team hits the field.
“Honestly, we have a pretty big pack,” he said. “We’re pretty big across the front pack and our backline has gotten a lot better. Our frontline will be bringing it to them physically, and hopefully the backline can finish plays and score tries.”
A strong base for preparation is bulking up for the season during practices and reviewing past games, but the games ultimately come down to how that preparation is utilized.
“At the end of the day the game is about execution. It’s our players out there making decisions, we’re not out there calling plays,” Pacheco said. “That’s the sport. We try to give them everything we can to get them prepared so they can make the right decisions at the right time.”
That amount of responsibility is carried by the players on and off the field. The players work on developing a strong connection so that when they’re on the field, there’s no confusion.
“I think that’s one of the challenges of rugby,” Dean said. “The coach can only do so much. Once we’re on the field it’s all about the players. It’s on us to all be on the same page and know what each other is thinking in the different situations that may come up.”
With very little time to get instructions out, the team relies heavily on reading subtle signals and intuition, but in addition to that, the team makes sure to have a gameplan before they hit the field.
“I think it’s crucial we dominate the first 15 minutes,” said senior Clint Lemkus, a prop for the team. “And although we’re playing on their field, we have to look at it as if it’s our own. Once we step on the field, we can recognize them as a quality opponent. But once we cross that solid line, we’ll show no respect to them. There’s a win waiting for us in California, and it’s up to the team to go and collect it.”