Humboldt State

HSU men just one win from a trip to the national final four

Submitted photo – The HSU men celebrate their breakthrough win over Cal Maritime earlier this season.

By Ray Hamill — It’s been a short but impressive season for the Humboldt State men’s rugby team, which is now just one win from a trip to the national small school’s final four.

The Jacks will travel to Vallejo on Saturday to play New Mexico Tech, and a victory will see them crowned West Region champs.

Several West Coast teams either were never cleared to play this year or were only cleared late, which has resulted in a depleted playoff field.

And that has catapulted the Jacks into the top tier for this year’s playoffs, which included an opening-round bye.

Regardless of the level, assistant coach Vince Celotto believes they have an excellent shot at victory, providing they avoid injuries.

“We’re a balanced team,” Celotto said. “We have a really good pack, even with two rookies, and it’s scary what they can do. And we’ve got a lot of speed on the back line. We’re getting scoring from the forward pack and the back line.”

The concern is the depth, with injuries taking their toll on a roster that was already significantly down this year because of the pandemic and not being able to recruit on campus as much as in the past.

The team will travel with just four subs, a very small number in the sport.

Still, the Jacks will certainly fancy their chances and will carry some momentum into the game after a big win over Cal Maritime recently, their first over the powerhouse program in 14 years.

“We’ll have the same game plan,” Celotto said. “Be balanced, have ball control and tackle. We’re a good tackling team.

“This weekend, we’ve just got to keep doing the things we’ve been doing well.”

The game will be just the third of the season for the Jacks (2-0), who had four of their six league opponents forfeit to them.

Saturday’s game is set for 1:30 p.m., with the final four in Houston in mid December.

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