Lopes secure No. 14 seed; head to northern California for 1st-round clash at 2PM Saturday
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team has secured a berth in the DIA College Rugby Playoffs Round of 16 in their first year at the DI level. The Lopes clinched the No. 14 seed, and will face off against the 3rd-seeded Bears of the University of California, Berkeley, next weekend. The match will be played at the UC-Berkeley campus at 2 pm next Saturday, April 14th. The winner of the match will advance the Round of 8 in two weeks against the winner of the match between No. 6 Indiana University and the 11th-ranked United States Naval Academy.
The announcement comes just under two weeks after the Lopes ended their regular season with a hard-fought 31-26 victory over the team that secured the final seed in the 16-team playoff, California Polytechnic State University, at GCU Stadium on March 26. Meanwhile, the Bears’ regular season ended yesterday with a 21-12 loss to the top-seeded team in the tournament (and defending national champions), St. Mary’s College from California.
For the Lopes, the announcement finally ends a long waiting period to find out whether or not history would be made. The Lopes made the decision to move up to the DI 15’s last summer after reaching the semifinal round of the DIAA Playoffs last spring in just their second year of existence. This season, the Lopes used a regular season-ending five-match winning streak to not only power their way into the national rankings (they reached as high as their current spot of 12th in the D1A Rugby Poll), but find their way into the postseason. Even with that lofty ranking, Lopes’ Head Coach Cam Wyper was nervous about whether or not it would be enough to weave their way past the various conference champions (who earn an automatic bid to the playoffs), and get into the postseason.
“We did all we could to make the playoffs, and then just had to wait to see if that would be enough,” said a relieved Wyper Sunday. “Even with our strong strength of schedule and results, it wasn’t guaranteed.”
Now that the Lopes have made the historic climb into the DIA Playoffs, they don’t have a lot of time to prepare for a team they haven’t ever faced in regular season DIA 15’s competition. Wyper knows what kind of battle they will face against a perennial powerhouse.
“Cal is one of the premier teams in DIA, and it’s going to be a huge matchup for us,” Wyper said. “We’re rolling into playoffs as a formed team, but you certainly can’t take that for granted, since playoffs are a totally different entity.”
The No. 14 Lopes and No. 3 Cal Bears will clash in the Round of 16 matchup at 2 pm on Saturday, April 14th, at Witter Rugby Field on the UC-Berkeley campus. The winner of the match gets one step closer to the DIA College Rugby National Championship Match on May 5 in Santa Clara, California.