by Brett Anker
The University of California will travel to West Point to take on Army in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Both teams won handily in the first round of the Varsity Cup and are looking to continue the momentum.
The last time the Golden Bears played the Black Knights in a 15-aside match was in 2009. The teams met in the division I USA Rugby playoffs with the Golden Bears winning 42-17 to claim a spot in the 2009 final. Besides the 2009 semifinals, the clubs competed against each other in 7s at the Collegiate Rugby Championship, with Cal winning a pool play contest.
Prior to the 2009 contest, the teams met twice in consecutive national championships. In both 1991 and 1992, Cal defeated Army in tight contests to win the national title. The teams also met consecutively in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs with Berkeley claiming wins in both.
For a program of such rich tradition and history, however, this will be the first time that Cal travels to West Point. The Golden Bears are looking forward to the challenge and are excited at the prospect of playing on a storied campus.
“Army has always been a fierce opponent and we are expecting their best rugby,” said head coach Jack Clark. “It will be a privilege to visit West Point and we want to soak it all in.”
Adding intrigue to the match up is the fact that the first year head coach of Army was a co-captain on a Cal side coached by Clark. Matt Sherman participated in the 2002 and 2003 victories over West Point and more recently served as an assistant coach for the Bears. For Sherman, however, the focus is on preparing for a tough opponent.
“We are looking forward to the challenging opportunity that awaits us in Cal in round two of the Varsity Cup,” Army coach Matt Sherman told United World Sports. “Cal has set the bar for many years in the collegiate rugby landscape, and we welcome the opportunity to test ourselves against that high standard,”
Army has been playing extremely well of late. Picking up wins against Utah, Navy and Oklahoma. However, the Black Knights struggled against another top tier opponent in BYU, falling 72-10. This weekend will be a step up from the recent wins and Army knows that it will require a strong performance.
“It is a challenge, no doubt. Our focus will remain the same. Chasing our best performance. I think when we are playing at our top level we are very competitive to compete with most teams. For us the challenge will be the constancy and that standard. Can we find 80 minutes of that level? To be competitive with Cal that is what we need to do,” added Sherman.
The game kicks off at 3PM EST on Saturday.