GLENDALE, Colo. — With their 64-12 win over Navy last Saturday, the BYU rugby team punched its ticket to the College Premier Division's semifinals, where they face the Arkansas State University Red Wolves today.
The Cougars' semifinal opponent is somewhat of a familiar foe, as BYU and ASU faced each other two years ago in the quarterfinals. In the 2009 matchup, the Cougars won a hotly contested match 13-3 in Marietta, Ga., on their way to winning their first-ever national title two weeks later.
Despite the two years since their last meeting, BYU head coach David Smyth says the Red Wolves are a much stronger and improved team.
"They are a good bunch," Smyth said, "They have a lot of players left from that (2009) team and they've added some good pieces since then, so we expect to see a very strong team."
The Cougars, meanwhile, will look to advance with 2009 holdovers and All-Americans Viliami Vimahi, Mikey Su'a, Apenisa Malani, Shaun Davies and Dylan Lubbe. Of note, Vimahi scored the final BYU try late in the game in 2009 to help propel the Cougars past the Red Wolves.
The University of Utah faces the defending national champion Cal Golden Bears in the other semifinal at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.,
Undefeated Cal (25-0, 8-0) beat Life University for its semifinal slot, while Utah (13-2, 6-1) beat Army, 32-36, for its spot in the semis.
"Utah is once again a talented team," said Bears head coach Jack Clark. "They play hard and they play well."
Utah brings some familiar faces to today's contest, including scrumhalf Don Pati, a New Zealander who scored the game-winner in the invitational final last June, and back Thretton Palamo, who has represented the Samoan and U.S. national teams in international play. Palamo is also playing football for the Utes and continues in his rugby career to be a difficult assignment for any tackler.
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The Bears and Utes last saw each other Jan. 16 at the UCLA Tournament, where Cal came away with a 34-0 victory in a shortened match designed to fit tournament play. Prior to that, the two teams faced off in the final of the Collegiate Invitational 7s last June in Columbus, Ohio, where Utah defeated Cal in overtime, 31-26.
At Glendale Colo.
Utah (13-2) vs. Cal (25-0)
Today, 6 p.m.
TV: ESPN3.com, ESPNU, tape delayed, 8:30 p.m.
BYU (15-0) vs. Arkansas St.
Today, 8 p.m.
TV: ESPN3.com, ESPNU tape delayed, 10 p.m.