National Small College Rugby Organization LLC: Latest News: Cal Maritime rugby team looks for success again in 2014

Monday, February 3
Cal Maritime rugby team looks for success again in 2014

By Jose San Mateo Times-Herald sports writer
Posted: 02/01/2014 12:55:13 AM PST 

Reprinted from online posting. Link is found by clicking on story headline above.

The Cal Maritime Men's rugby team has set a high bar for itself this season.

The Keelhaulers are fresh off a pair of deep playoff runs. Two years ago, Cal Maritime lost to Salve Regina University in the National Small College Rugby Organization's National Championship game.

Last year, Cal Maritime beat Humboldt State to win the Northern California Collegiate Rugby Conference championship. The Keelhaulers ended up losing to Occidental in the Pacific Coast Cup.

After a week off, Cal Maritime plays a friendly against Solano Community College at 1 p.m. today before the bulk of its league schedule begins. The Keelhaulers play Cal State Monterey Bay next Saturday.

Success this season is going to depend on just how much youth is served. The Keelhaulers will have to do without flanker Lonnie Shankling, who graduated and was an integral part of the last two seasons. Nick Balestra and Will Fitzpatrick also graduated last season.

"I expect us to be extremely competitive this year," said Cal Maritime head coach Steven Hiatt. "It's a young team that's got to learn to take some knocks. It takes hard work to beat good teams."

Hiatt said that current seniors Wyatt Matthews and Sylvan Gallawa have filled in the leadership void.

"We lost quite a few seniors," Hiatt said. "I like how these seniors have come to the forefront and learned to fill that role."

The Keelhaulers have gotten surprise production from Ryan Morris, who transferred from Kings-Point Merchant Marines. Hiatt said that Joe Perambo has also become a nice role player on the team and sophomore Jonathan DiBacco has also stood out.

St. Patrick-St. Vincent High graduate Travis Quisenberry also received some playing time this season.

Cal Maritime is 4-2 on the season with the bulk of its NorCal-CRC schedule coming up. The Keelhaulers beat Humboldt State in a rematch of the league championship last season, but suffered losses to collegiate rugby powerhouses Cal and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.

Cal Maritime lost to Cal Poly 29-12 and got walloped by Cal 105-5. USA Rugby has Cal Poly ranked No. 9 in the nation. Cal lost to Brigham Young University in the Varsity Cup last season, which is the rugby equivalent of a BCS national championship game. "They're like the Kentucky basketball team," Hiatt said. "Cal is the creme de la creme in rugby."

After its match against CSUMB, Cal Maritime returns home to face Santa Rosa Junior College. The Keelhaulers face a tough road game against Sonoma State after that before finishing the season at home against University of San Francisco and Sierra College.

"I expect Santa Rosa and Sonoma State are both going to be in there for a league title," Hiatt said. "Those are going to be tough games.