As the sun set on one of the nicest nights of an unpredictable spring in Fort Collins, the silhouettes of the CSU rugby squad could be faintly traced against the setting sun.
After the wild week of snow kept them from practicing on their home turf, the Rams didn’t mind playing in the dark.
They were just happy to be out on the field.
Excitement is at an all-time high for the No. 12 CSU squad, who are preparing to host their first home playoff game against No. 8 Cal Poly on Saturday at 1 p.m. on the IM Fields. CSU is coming off a huge 20-17 victory over No. 16 CU, which solidified their undefeated record and clinched their first ever West Conference Title.
“CU is such a big game that it’s easy to get excited,” CSU senior Ryan Walker said. “It’s going to be another challenge altogether to play at that same intensity.”
Cal Poly, on the other hand, is coming off of their first loss of the season entering the game. However, the setback has only refocused them on their playoff goals.
“We learned a lot from playing Central Washington, and we identified a few areas that we need to work on,” Cal Poly senior Patrick McCreesh said. “It was a disappointing loss, but we can learn from it and I think we will be better for it.”
For both the Rams (4-0) and the Mustangs (6-1), making a to the final eight at nationals is a momentous occasion. The Cal Poly seniors will be eager to get their shot at playoff glory, which they only tasted during their first year.
“The game means a lot. We have missed the post season the past couple years, and the last time we had a post-season game I was a freshman,” said McCreesh. “That was a play-in game that we lost, so I’m really glad we were able to make it this year.”
The Rams already have a great season to be proud of, turning around an 0-7 record in 2012 to an undefeated season and a conference championship under first year Head Coach Justin Mort.
“At the beginning of the season when we first took over, there were players at a much higher level than other players, and now I think that the newer players are catching up to the elite players, and its kind of evening out now,” Mort said.
Mort has done an incredible job of taking a nucleus of talent and turning it in to something special, and the team is rallying around each other.
“We have a few players that will just lift the entire team up,” Walker said. “If we have one player that is having a good game, everyone around him will be forced to play at that same level because he will be going that much harder.”
The foundation of elite talent and a well-rounded team has CSU primed to be a dark horse in the D1A Championships.
“We have to find it in ourselves,” Walker said. “If we do that, if we play against any team the same way we played against CU, we will dominate them.”
Club Sports Beat Reporter Tyrus Coder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.