Southern California, as most people know, is prone to earthquakes. Everybody waits for the next "big one."
SoCal rugby fans though, need wait no longer. The UC-San Diego Women's Rugby side was rocked Sunday by their upcoast hosts, the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos, in a stunning 27-5 loss. It was the first Triton defeat in Southern California Rugby Football Union (SCRFU) play since 2002.
Sunday's win makes the Gauchos, with a 2-0 record, the only undefeated side in SCRFU's Division I collegiate women's standings. UCSD now owns a 3-1 record this season.
Triton Head Coach Carla Smith took the loss stoically.
"It was needed, I think, for the future of the program," she said. "Winning in SoCal for so many years, the girls forget how hard it was to get to this point. Winning becomes expected. The girls will not forget this loss for a while."
Largely penalty-free, yesterday's match featured long periods of fiercely contested rugby as each team put sustained pressure inside the other's 22-meter line. Momentum, according to UCSB Head Coach Tom Constantine, switched just once, though.
After defending their end for the game's first ten minutes, the Gauchos forayed into San Diego's half of the field. UCSB was awarded a penalty kick in the ensuing ruck, with flyhalf Rosie Krautner going for post, netting a 3-0 lead for the Gauchos.
"We controlled the match from that play forward," said Constantine.
UCSB' s senior wing scored twice, running hard and straight, keeping numerous Tritons at her heels. Flanker Phoebe Boone also turned in a very solid performance along with lock Kara Mathews, playing up the middle to get hard yards past the gain line.
"Both our centers, too, had dominating moments," said .Constantine. "Blair Groefsema, our captain, played number eight and led the defense."
Groefsema scored herself on a eightman pick-up from scrum, powering her way through ten meters of Tritons for a try.
The Tritons gave up 20 points in the first half, though it wasn't for lack of preparation.
"We expected everything UCSB was going to throw at us," said Smith. "We even practiced exactly what they were going to do."
The difference came from the Gaucho's ability to capitalize on their scoring chances. The Tritons, lacking their customary speed and aggressiveness at the wing, could not.
Constantine said his side's time had finally come. "We understand San Diego's tendencies from getting beaten by them for years. We adjusted our game plan accordingly," he recalled.
"UCSD played tough, as usual, but we were definitely the better side yesterday," said Constantine. "They should be ready for us in a couple of weeks and we'll need to play well to beat them again."
Already gearing up for a return match at UCSD's Warren Field on February 26, Triton coach Smith said: "A champion doesn't take losing easily. I definitely expect a better performance next time out."
Given the stakes, the match ought to be a barn burner.