While Santa Barbara City College and Long Beach State rolled with big victories this weekend, the most intriguing development in the Gold Coast Conference is the growth of Southern California.
USC has long been a quiet rugby program, with longtime coach Dave Lytle working hard with what is usually a physically small team. While USC rugby used to be a big deal – the Trojans were once the team playing UBC on a regular basis – in recent times rugby hasn’t quite taken off the way it has at UCLA, Arizona, or Cal.
But USC has started off well this year with a 36-12 defeat of UC San Diego, and while that result doesn’t guarantee much, it’s an indication that the Trojans might be getting better.
“We’re excited about building a strong rugby culture on campus, with more and stronger players,” said Coach Anthony Yeo. “Winning the opening match of the Goal Coast Rugby Conference was good for the team; they’d worked hard in the pre-season. At the same time, the game showed us key areas we can continue to improve.”
The players have been working hard on their fitness, reasoning that fitness is something they can always control.
“By focusing on fitness and expecting every player to finish the match and be in the correct rugby shape, we put the team in the best position to win,” said Yeo. “But remember, this is one match. We have excellent competition in the Gold Coast Rugby Conference, and we know we are about to be tested against some strong teams. Then we’ll know more about the Trojan spirit.”
Joseph Krassenstein scored two tries for USC and also kicked that rarity in American rugby, a drop goal, for a total of 13 points. Haico Kaashoek scored a try and kicked four conversions for 13 of his own, while Justin Shepard scored two tries in the effort against UCSD. Kaashoek was player of the game, but prop Nick Banks was a force on defense.
This is a special season for USC Rugby as Coach Dave Lytle is retiring. His legendary Trojan Man Cave will continue to be USC Rugby Headquarters as he mentors the new coaches. Lytle has been part of USC rugby for over 30 years.
“We’re proud to carry on his commitment to the team,” said Yeo. “[And] we’re excited about our prospects. We want to teach the team quality rugby and give them an excellent collegiate rugby experience.”
The Southern California teams take a week off because of the USA 7s, but then get back on the job. USC will face San Diego, another team that beat UCSD, and that will be a good measuring stick for the Trojans.
Meanwhile, CSULB and SBCC lead the conference with 2-0 records, and face off against each other Feb. 21 in a game that could well decide who wins the conference.
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