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California D1A Conference Wraps Up With Positives For Many

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California D1A Conference Wraps Up With Positives For Many

CSULB had some difficult early tests but ended up 5-2.

The California D1A Conference has essentially completed its regular season and here are a few observations.

Saint Mary's is the winner. The standings below don't reflect a result between the Gaels and Sacramento State but they didn't play that game and it's likely to be listed as a forfeit or something ... it's a good bet Saint Mary's would have won that.

Cal Poly takes 2nd and has made areally strong case for being in the D1A playoffs.

There have not been a lot of close losses in this league, and it's easy to take from that the idea that it hasn't been competitive. But it has. Sure, Saint Mary's won their games by wide margins, but after that there were plenty of interesting matchups. We had a tie and a 42-41 result. And look at how many four-try bonus-point matches we had—39. The average team logged 4.3 four-try games. Yes, sure, Saint Mary's and Cal Poly accomplished that in every game, but every team did it at least once. Four teams other than the Mustangs and Gaels did it at least four times.

And consider also that there were only five shutouts in a season of a recorded 33 games. Looking at it from a points scored perspective you see that even the teams at the lower end of the standings—UCSC, Santa Clara, and Sacramento State—averaged 17.6 points per game (!). These teams might not be winning, but they are scoring tries.

If we had a Newcomer of the Year team award it would probably be Cal State Long Beach. They aren't exactly D1A rookies, but are very recent additions to this level and they finished 5-2, capping the season off with a 72-12 defeat of Santa Clara. Their game with UC Santa Cruz was rained out and a good reschedule date could not be found. Given the fact that CSULB outperformed UCSC against every comon opponent, it's likely had that game been played Long Beach would have been 6-2.

New Head Coach Peter Sio has done a very good job with the team and word is they have recruited well for 2024-25.

"The season went just as I expected," Sio told GRR. "We only had two weeks to prepare before our first game, so the slow started was expected due to the new system the team had to learn. But we got better as the season progressed. We're learning more about each other. The team as a whole improved their basic skills of catch-pass while the more experienced guys gained more knowledge of what to look for to create opportunities."

Sio said he was proud of the newer players and how they threw themselves into bettering their rugby.

"I also think that this season has helped our seniors prepare for the next level," he added. "The goal was to bring everyone along, new or experienced. We did that. We started with the same crew and ended with more ... I feel good about the future."

Or maybe that unofficial award should go to UCSB, which ended the season 5-3. They lost to Long Beach but after that they hit their stride. Head Coach Neil Foote joked "there has definitely been something in the water" following that match. 

Their attack has been sparked by the halfback combination of Jack Hayes and Marcus Nguyen, "but the ability ot our entire team to move the ball and be unselfish has really brought a polish to our attack structure."

Both CSULB and UCSB have to work on their recruiting. Sio says there is good news on that front. Foote is just trying to raise the percentage of players with high school rugby experience above 20%.

But, he added, having players new to rugby allows Foote to put his stamp on their development.

"We get to teach the skills, work habits, and values that are important to us as players and people. This season has seen the benefit of that."

Unofficial Standings (Currently showing info from 33 of 36 scheduled games. CSULB v UCSC was rained out and not played; Saint Mary's vs Sacramento State was not played; updated for UCSC v San Diego State March 17)

California D1A W L T PF PA PD BT BL Pts
Cal Poly 7 1 0 562 140 422 8 0 36
Saint Mary's 7 0 0 606 81 525 7 0 35
UCSB 5 3 0 316 198 118 5 0 25
CSULB 5 2 0 269 203 66 5 0 25
UC Davis 4 4 0 193 337 -144 4 0 20
San Diego State 3 5 0 218 350 -132 6 0 18
UCSC 1 5 1 121 412 -291 2 0 8
Santa Clara 1 7 0 165 431 -266 2 1 7
Sacramento State 0 6 1 83 381 -298 1 0 3