Sierra College is back at it – winning. The two-year school has done a whole lot of that the last couple of years. The Wolverines made it all the way to the National semifinals last year, where it fell to eventual National Champs UW-Whitewater 29-20.
Last year was Sierra’s first in the USA Rugby National Playoffs, and its appearance in the semifinals was the first for any two-year school. The run, though, wasn’t a flash in the pan, or the perfect mix of timing that saw a bunch of quality players end up in one or two classes. No, it appears, last year was simply the sign of a really strong program emerging in Northern California.
“We had a lot of turnover, but we have a very strong core. We’ve got great forwards, a lot of returning forwards,” said Sierra coach Michael Taylor. “Plus, we had an influx of experienced forwards from high school, so we’ve got a great pack.”
When you talked to coaches of teams who played Sierra last season, inevitably they’d laud the speed of the Wolverines. Even though Taylor says his team’s strength lies in its pack this season, he says its still fast across the board.
“We’re still fast. The speed last year was fullback and backs. This year, the speed is more forwards and center and flyhalf,” he said.
“We’re playing a different style of play which feeds off of our strengths, which is our forwards and the insides, but we’ve also got some strong wings. It’s a diverse team, but different personnel. It’s a different side.”
Two of the returning lynchpins are the Lugar twins – Brian and Justin. Justin a flanker who’s converted to inside center, after Sierra lost last year’s inside center to St. Mary’s, and Brian is the leader of the forwards at hooker. Sierra’s outside center is a converted No. 8, so the Wolverines are physical in the midfield.
But, says Taylor, the team is most deep in the back row. “We’re so loaded in the back row, we haven’t skipped a beat, basically,” he said.
Sierra is two presumed wins away from an undefeated NorCal season, one postseason win from the Sweet Sixteen and two more from a return to the Final Four.