by Brett Anker
Cal and Arkansas State will meet in the final of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup on Saturday, May 6, at Stevens Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. ET and will be aired on tape delay on NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET.
For the first time in the history of the Varsity Cup, the game will be played outside of Utah. Cal, who has been to every previous Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, is excited at the prospect of the game being moved to Northern California this yea.
“We enjoyed traveling to Utah the last several years but we will be excited to have the game closer to home,” said Cal coach Jack Clark.
The travel is much longer for an Arkansas State squad that is making its first foray into the finals. The Red Wolves are expecting a big Cal crowd and are prepared to play in hostile conditions.
“Cal has a huge support base and with the game being in California, we expect to see a lot of their fans. We are hoping to get some supporters to the game but it is a long trip,” said Arkansas State coach Shaun Potgeiter.
The Red Wolves know that beating Cal will be tough and it something that has eluded them in the past. ASU fell to Cal twice in 7s at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship last year, and last played the Golden Bears in 15s in 2010, losing 83-37. ASU knows the physicality and athleticism Cal brings and is aware it will be quite the challenge.
“Cal is incredibly skilled at every position and is extremely well-coached. They are big and strong will certainly test our defense,” Potgeiter added.
Arkansas State has a few weapons of its own, particularly in the backline. Potgeiter indicated that his team score with most teams in the country.
“I am confident in our backline to find gaps. Our focus has been on defense and stopping a very strong Cal attack,” Potgeiter admitted.
Coach Clark indicated that Arkansas State is filled with talented athletes, also noting the prowess in the backline.
“They have some strong weapons in the backline. They are going to test us defensively.”
It will be an interesting game with two teams that don’t often play each other. For Cal, it is returning to its fifth consecutive title match and seeking its second straight title. The bears have been to the big dance before and are used to playing on national television. However, the Bears have underclassmen heavy squad. Coach Clark is confident, though, that his young squad will handle the moment.
“Freshman and sophomores have logged significant minutes this year. They have grown over the season and I believe they are prepared for the game. With senior leaders like Russell Webb, Anthony Salaber and Patrick Barrientes, the young guys will have a great example to follow.”
Arkansas State, who has not played in national title game since 2012, is making its first nationally televised title game in program history, For another young team, this is both exciting and daunting.
“This is a landmark moment in our program’s history. A majority of our team is underclassmen and to get to the Varsity Cup final was incredible. The guys are excited for the opportunity to play on national television,” Potgeiter concluded.