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Arizona Wildcats rugby makes Sweet Sixteen

Arizona Rugby earned a Sweet 16 spot in the National Championships, finishing its season 8-4.

It’s been three years since the fifteen’s team has made it to the post season. Arizona’s last Sweet 16 appearance was successful, beating Syracuse in Santa Barbara then moving on to the Elite 8 where they fell short to BYU.

This weekend the Wildcats will be hosting three other schools including Western Washington, Long Beach State and Chico State.

Western Washington will compete against Chico at 11 a.m., and Arizona is matched with Long Beach for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday at Rincon Vista Pitch/Murphey Soccer Stadium.

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Arizona men’s rugby head coach Dave Sitton goes way back with coaches of the Western Washington team, so he’s looking forward to the weekend.

Western Washington head coach Paul Horne coached the Canadian team when Sitton was coaching the United States team back in the ’90s. The team manager for Washington, Jeff Lombard, was a U.S. player when Sitton was involved in the National program as well.

With the long standing bond between these coaches it will be interesting to watch the teams match up for the first time if both find success on Saturday.

It looks like Western Washington has a good chance of moving forward on its side of the bracket — having beat Washington and Oregon and finishing 6-0 in league.

“I’ll be excited to see them play,” said Sitton. “I know that they are very fast, very mobile and can attack from just about anywhere on the field, and that’s been their way to success throughout the season.”

As for knowing Chico State’s game, Arizona hasn’t played them since a tournament at the University of Nevada 15 years ago. To prepare for a possible match up with them, Sitton will have two coaches scouting Saturday.

Although the other bracket is important for Sunday, the biggest focus right now is on old time rival Long Beach State.

“There was a tremendous rivalry between Arizona and Long Beach State years ago, then Long Beach State actually went down a division, and they’re coming back up,” said Sitton. “Their coach Quinn has turned the program around, and it’s a very strong Southern California program again.

“They have a very strong pack and their back line is capable of attacking, but their defense is a little bit lazy. We are just going to have to play a very intense and fast-paced game on Saturday and not make mistakes.”

Sitton knows that this time of year, even in NCAA basketball, anyone can win on any given day.

“We take nothing for granted,” he said. “You go back to so many clichés, but they’re really not clichés; they are absolutely the truth — that you have to play each game one at a time, and we have to focus our attention right now on playing and defeating Long Beach State, period.”

If the team defeats Long Beach and wins the championship Sunday, it will be making its way to Bowling Green, Ohio, for Elite 8.

“Everybody knows that rugby is a hard game,” said Sitton. “Hard — fierce — are the successful rugby players. So if we play hard, we will be fine. If we play soft, then we got our own problems.”


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/4)
744 14 1.9%
Total (8/2)
64,794 1,040 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 5, 2021