CSU Rugby falls in quarterfinal round of D1A Championships

Kyle Eichelberger breaks a tackle for a try on Monday's practice. The Rams will be having their next home game on Wednesday April 10th at 7pm.
Kyle Eichelberger breaks a tackle for a try at Monday’s practice.

CSU Rugby’s Cinderella season came to a heartbreaking end Saturday, as Cal Poly advanced to the final four with a 40-19 victory over the Rams.

In a physical first half, the Rams controlled the pace of the game and got off to an early lead.

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“We played pretty competitively,” CSU junior Chris Hooyman said. “We kept the ball moving, and I think we got in their heads a little bit in the first half.”

After scoring on a late try to tie the game at 12 after the first 40 minutes, the Mustangs took control in the second half, outscoring CSU 28-7.

The Rams gave it their all in front of a great CSU crowd on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but found themselves outmatched by a strong Cal Poly squad in the latter half of the game.

“They are a great second half team. They started capitalizing on their opportunities a lot more, but we didn’t,” Hooyman. “If we had a breakaway or chance to score, something would go wrong, and that’s just something that happens. You hate to have it happen in a game like that, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

The playoff loss for the Rams does not define their season. For a program that is still in the developmental stages, CSU combined talent with fresh faces to put together an undefeated regular season, a turnaround from a winless season last year.

“Making it to the elite eight alone is a pretty big honor, and we have a bright future too,” Hooyman said. “We are only losing about five starters, so we have a really strong returning core.”

Much of the success the Rams had this season had to do with their new coaching staff, which has created a more serious atmosphere on the team. First year head coach Justin Mort has brought a new energy and vast knowledge of the game to CSU.

“It’s way more organized now, and Justin and Frank were both amazing players too, so they are still learning how to coach,” freshman Ben Pinkelman said. “They are getting better every week, and they are great at teaching players.”

In addition to a strong returning cast of elite team players, the Rams are looking forward to inheriting some talent from their developmental team.

“We have a strong developmental side as well,” said Pinkelman. “They dominated all season, so they are going to play a big part in the future.”

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While Saturday’s game meant the end of spring rugby and 15-man rugby for the Rams, many of them will continue to play into the offseason and next fall on 7-man teams. Whether it in men’s league or on the U-20 National team, most of the Rams will get their fair share of action during the offseason.

After one of the most successful seasons in program history, the future looks very bright for the budding Rams Rugby squad.

Club Sports Beat Reporter Tyrus Coder can be reached at sports@collegian.com.