Tucson, Ariz- After splitting the last weekend of PAC Conference play, the Arizona Wildcats will host a double header on the final weekend of the season. Arizona will play New Mexico State University and the University of Texas – El Paso on Saturday in back-to-back games.
Both games will be played on the Rincon Vista Rugby Pitch. Arizona – New Mexico State kicks off at 1:00. Arizona- Texas El Paso begins at 2:45.
"We need to get as many minutes as possible this weekend so we are splitting our squad," Arizona Head Coach Dave Sitton said. "We had planned on doing this all season. With our numbers, we like to give our young players the chance to play with our most veteran players whenever possible. This weekend we will split the varsity team in half. And our JVs will be elevated to play in each of those games. Both will be considered varsity games and both will go on our record."
New Mexico State and UTEP are both smaller schools that will be traveling to Tucson for the double-header. With both schools within decent traveling distance, they may be looked to more often for matches.
"We're hoping to build a great relationship with New Mexico State and Texas – El Paso," Sitton said. "Both teams are within a short bus ride of our campus and otherwise, it is Arizona State and San Diego State that provide us our closest collegiate competition.
"New Mexico State (7-4) and Arizona used to have a regular series, but they have gone through several coaching changes. Over time we have not been able to keep the series alive, but we would like to have a fall and spring contest with them every year.
"Texas – El Paso (0-4) is a very young program. Own of their mentors is a former opponent of mine for many years and the father of our own Jack Arnold, Delbert Arnold."
Arizona is entering Saturday with a 6-4 record (2-3 in PAC Conference). The Wildcats will have the chance to make it eight wins on the season with a sweep. The two wins could also go a long way towards helping the Wildcats secure a trip to the postseason.
The Wildcats arrived at the six win mark with a victory over Oregon State in a hard fought game that went back-and-forth. Arizona trailed by as many as thirteen, but was able to surge back and take the lead. The Beavers made a late push, but a knock on at the try line ended the game, securing the victory for the Wildcats.
"A double up PAC weekend reminds us of the days when we were in the Southern California Conference and we used to do this all the time," Sitton said. "It is very difficult to have college age athletes play as hard as Oregon State did on Friday against ASU and as Arizona did against UCLA and have the same energy level on Sunday.
"I want to compliment both Oregon State and Arizona for their effort today. Both teams gave everything that was left and you can tell by the close score. Arizona was able to make a couple breakaways. It would have been nice to have Andrew Matyas, but these are the things that we need."
Arizona is expected to hear from USA Rugby next Sunday if they will advance with an at large berth.. With a pair of non conference games to play, the ‘Cats have a 6 – 4 record. What is noticed is that four of Arizona's six wins have been achieved against schools ranked in the top twenty.
"We are hoping to hear from USA Rugby in the next few days," Sitton said. "If not, then we will know by Sunday for sure. We have had a difficult schedule, with four of our six wins to date being over ranked opponents and all four of our losses coming that way as well. With the exception of the University of California, it is difficult to find a schedule as tough as ours."
Arizona is one of the twenty schools that will compete in the Fourth Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia. The nationally televised tournament will be seen on NBC Sport June 1 and 2. Arizona finished runner up to Dartmouth in the 2012 event.
Fullback Ryan Matyas, flanker Jonathon Weisiger, and Center Mark Watson – all starters are out this weekend.
With the sweep on Saturday, Arizona coach Dave Sitton would pull within one victory of the highly sought after 400 win mark. Over his 35 year run as Arizona coach. Sitton played four years at Arizona and has been a member of the team since 1974. His record stands at 397-211-12.
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