Fourteen teams. Nine hours. One winner.
Bragging rights for the UC Santa Cruz men’s rugby team will be at stake as the team hosts its 12th annual Slugfest tournament — the biggest in years — this coming Saturday, Oct. 24.
UCSC alum and head coach Scott Carson has been with the team since 1997 and is excited that so many other teams are coming out to participate in the upcoming tournament.
“We have 14 teams this year, and there’s room for more,” Carson said. “We’re going to have University of San Francisco, San Jose State, UC Davis, Long Beach State — so many schools, and all great competition.”
The tournament is an all-day event going from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regular games are 80 minutes long, but for Slugfest they will be 40 minutes long, with hopes that the shortened length of the games will be made up for by the number of matches being played.
“With 14 teams and 40 minute games, we really want to see what each of our players has within them,” said Carson. “Through the day each team is going to play four to five games apiece, so we’re going to see just how fit we are compared to our opponents.”
Vice-president of the club team, second-year Tyler Pritchard, is also excited to play against a variety of opponents, all of which will help the team get geared up before the regular season begins in January.
“Big rivalry games for us are definitely San Jose State and Santa Clara, both of whom we play against during the season, so this gives us a great early look at the teams,” Pritchard said. “It’s also an important event for our team to get adapted to one another and get all the kinks out.”
The rugby team is also experiencing a lot of changes from within. Players recently adopted a more focused infrastructure that includes having a club president and vice-president, and they hope that this new leadership structure will allow the team to become even more focused on their endeavors and various goals.
“The fact that we now have a structure and a title makes the team look and feel more legit,” Pritchard said.
Fourth-year Eric Cowell is the newly-named club president. He agreed with Pritchard about the importance of solidifying the structure of the club and noted that the decision was made in conjunction with coaches.
“A lot of credit goes to our coaches, Jeremy, Skippy and Scott; they really want us to feel like this is our club, and how well we do is dependent upon how much hard work we’re willing to put in.”
Pritchard also emphasized that, despite many recent changes, the club doesn’t plan to use that as an excuse for poor play.
“Even though we have all this new stuff going on within the clubs it’s not a transition year,” Pritchard said. “We want to put this structure in place and improve upon our performance and play last year.”
Cowell believes that the experience of the team will help them do well this year.
“We have a lot of guys coming back this year which is great because it brings experience to the team,” Cowell said. “This year everyone who is starting has at least two years of rugby experience.”
Ultimately, Pritchard hopes that this year’s large-scale Slugfest will get people excited about the upcoming UCSC rugby season and encourage them to come out and support the team.
“It’s the only tournament that we put on so it’s a definite big deal. We want people to know that rugby is around and here to stay.”