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Friday March 9, 2001

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Rugby heads back to California, hoping to stay in playoff picture

By Jeff Lund

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA men's rugby team will try to keep its momentum going this weekend when they travel back to California to take on UCLA and Long Beach State.

The Wildcats will take on the Bruins today and the 49ers Sunday.

After defeating conference-leading San Diego State and blowing out San Diego last weekend, the UA ruggers are ready to prove they can win on the road after dropping both matches on their last trip to California.

The Wildcats were swept by UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo last month.

"I am excited to go out and prove we can win on the road," Tyson Swetnam said. "We are pretty sure we'll beat UCLA. They have a poor program. Long Beach should be a tougher game."

Despite Swetnam's confidence, this weekend's road trip is a must-win situation for UA.

"In order to stay in the hunt, we need to win both games," head coach Dave Sitton said. "Our athletes are athletic and fit. When we play fundamental rugby, we win."

With every passing week, Sitton's team becomes more fit as injuries to key players that contributed in the only two losses this season heal.

Josh Allen returned to action last week against San Diego State after missing almost three months with a knee injury. The return of Allen, one of the team's most prolific scorers, has given the team much-needed offensive and emotional boosts.

Jonathan Gray is expected to make his return from a hamstring injury sometime during the trip as well.

"We are getting healthy," Sitton said. "Josh is almost all the way back, and Jonathan will be coming back from his injury."

Now that UA is almost back to full strength, the team is ready to prove they are one of the elite programs in the conference.

"We were clicking as a team," Pat Marek said. "We were just making mistakes. We played well last week and didn't make as many mistakes. We have to come out and play our best, and hope everything falls into place for the playoffs."