After an exciting regular season filled with last-minute victories and one heartbreaking loss, the Grand Canyon Women’s Rugby Program will seek their second straight conference crown as they compete in the Pacific Desert Rugby Conference Division I Playoffs this weekend. The Lopes – who are seeded No. 2 in the four-team tournament – will face 3rd-seeded UCLA Saturday in the PDRC Semifinals in Santa Barbara, California.
In the regular season meeting between the two clubs, Grand Canyon closed out their first road swing of the season with a 36-12 victory over the Bruins in Los Angeles in January.
“UCLA is a team that got a lot better this year from last year,” said Lopes senior forward MacKartnie Gandy. “We are prepared for them to be better this second time around, and all of us are keeping an open mind to not be cocky just because we beat them once this year.”
Rust could be a problem for the Lopes. Their regular season finale was a 53-7 runaway win at UC-San Diego, but that was 28 days ago. After that game, Lopes senior forward (and co-head coach) Jasmine Fifer alluded to using the month-long break to refocus their efforts on training, school as well as nursing any lingering injuries sustained through the season.
“The time off has been refreshing for us for sure,” said Gandy. “Last time we played UCLA, we had a couple of players out with injury, so we’re itching to get back on to the field knowing we’re fully healthy.”
The noon matchup between the Lopes and Bruins will be the second match of the day Saturday after the opening semifinal match between No. 1 UC-Santa Barbara and No. 4 California State-Northridge at 10 am. The losers of Saturday’s matches will kick off Sunday’s schedule with the consolation final at 10 am, with the championship match to commence at noon. Regardless of Saturday’s outcomes, the Lopes will be in for a tough matchup Sunday, since UCSB tagged them with their only loss of the season (a 32-29 decision at GCU Stadium on February 16), and the Lopes had to battle back to beat CSUN, 39-38, on the road that next weekend. Should the two top seeds reach the championship, it will be a rematch of last year’s Gold Coast Conference Intercollegiate Rugby Finals at GCU Stadium which gave the Lopes their first-ever conference title with a 67-17 win over the Gauchos.