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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s rugby team looks to be ‘Sweet’

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tyler Chastain
Robert Cadiff with ball
during practice March 2, 2010, at Rincon Vista Field
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat Tyler Chastain Robert Cadiff with ball during practice March 2, 2010, at Rincon Vista Field

It’s March, and the Arizona basketball teams are not the only teams on campus aiming to be ‘Sweet.’

The Arizona men’s rugby team will have the opportunity to advance to College Rugby’s Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001, when it hosts divisional opponent UCLA at 3:30 p.m. at Murphey Soccer Stadium.

The winner receives an automatic bid into College Rugby’s championship tournament.

After the team’s Tuesday practice, one coach described the upcoming game as the biggest game in Arizona men’s rugby in the last 10 to 12 years.

“”I think the seniors understand that if you win this, you go to the Sweet Sixteen,”” said head coach Dave Sitton. “”All they’ve heard about are the great teams full of All-Americans that would go all the time. Everyone playing since then has had that burden on them.””

One player carrying the burden is senior flanker Sean O’Sullivan.

“”It’s huge for me personally,”” O’Sullivan said. “”Since the time I was a freshman, everyone talks about it. We’ve slowly been working our way up (as a program) year by year. This will be the ultimate top to my senior year.””

“”So many people put so much effort into our program and want to see us succeed,”” O’Sullivan added. “”I feel we have to do it for them,””

With a possible tournament berth and a 6-3 overall record, the rugby team has garnered national attention. Arizona is currently ranked No. 20 by American Rugby News and No. 11 by Rugby Magazine and Goff on Rugby.

Though the national attention is nice, the men who play on the pitch have higher aspirations.

“”We appreciate that,”” Sitton said, “”but the wonderful thing about (rugby) is that all polls will be decided on the field. It’s fun now, but without an outstanding performance on Saturday, it all means nothing.””

O’Sullivan echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“”It’s nice to have the rankings,”” O’Sullivan said, “”but I’d rather validate it with a win and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.””

Arizona lost 17-15 to UCLA on the road earlier this season by missing tackles and dropping passes, along with a failure to return kicks well.

When coach Sitton was asked about the loss, he could only search for a reason.

“”None of us believe we should have lost that game,”” Sitton said. “”Credit them. They took advantage of our mental and physical errors.””

Now, the “”time for redemption”” has come, according to O’Sullivan and his teammate, senior wingman Mike Getzler.

“”There’s going to be a lot more intensity,”” Getzler said. “”On Saturday, we’ll be ready to destroy them.””

If Arizona fails to beat UCLA, it can still advance to the Sweet Sixteen but will have to win a one-game playoff for the third and final spot granted to its conference. If the rugby team plays its best, the playoff game will not be necessary, according to coach Sitton.

“”If we play our best game on Saturday, I think we’ll advance,”” he said.

The players are hoping for nothing more than ample support for Sunday’s game.

“”It would be awesome,”” said O’Sullivan of drawing a big crowd. “”We’re out here busting our butts like everyone else on campus. It would be great to have a big crowd to support the school and see what rugby is all about.””

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