While club sports may not gain the national attention of their NCAA counterparts, the ASU men’s club rugby team wants to send a message.
They don’t want to be overlooked.
“I think we’ll compete for the Pac-12 championship,” said head coach Gary Lane.
ASU rugby has been a strong program for years. Over the last five years, they have accumulated only 11 losses with seven coming last year. Lane dismisses any notion that they will lose seven again.
“I think this team is a better team than last year,” Lane said.
Although a Pac-12 championship is a lofty goal, it is not unreachable.
Despite a down year in 2012, the rugby team suffered from injuries and inexperience.
This year, some of the older players are fully healthy and the younger players had an extra year of playing with each other and gained some chemistry.
During the fall, ASU rugby cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with a strong showing in the PAC Sevens tournament. It picked up victories over conference rivals Oregon State, USC, Oregon as well a huge upset over No. 3 California.
It lost to the eventual runner-up No. 15 Utah in the semifinals and to No. 22 UCLA in the consolation game to finish in fourth place.
The three teams ranked in the top 25 shows the level of competition ASU faces in the Pac-12. Prior to the tournament, it only played one conference game during the fall, which was a victory over rival UA.
Junior captain Adam Sandstrom will play a huge part in any success the Sun Devils have this year. In addition to ASU, Sandstrom has represented the U.S. on the national under-20 team.
“We’ve been training real hard since (the fall),” Sandstrom said. “I like what I’m seeing, and it looks promising.”
The Sun Devils’ first conference game is against Cal, who will be looking for revenge after the PAC Sevens loss.
While both Lane and Sandstrom feel that the team is ready for the season start, Sandstrom recognizes the impact of the game against the Golden Bears.
“It’s always a big game when we play them,” Sandstrom said. “It’s easy for some of these younger guys to get kind of hyped up and excited out of their minds. They need to stay focused and just do their job.”
Last season’s disappointment, the hard work in the fall and a ranked finish in the PAC Sevens tournament are all just stepping stones for ASU rugby achieving their ultimate goal: the Pac-12 championship.
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