PLNU is a part of the National Small College Rugby Organization. In the past, PLNU has been in Division III, but due to their repeat appearances at nationals, they were elevated to Division II and into the Gold Coast Conference.
This year will be a tough test for a team that consistently begins the season with little rugby knowledge or experience. Rugby is played with 15 players on each team with a match spanning 80 minutes.
“[This season] we’ll have between four and five freshman on the field who haven’t played,” said Felipe Diaz, the PLNU club president.
Even the team captain, Chris Richey, had never played rugby before entering into his freshman year. “I joined originally because when I heard about it I thought that it just might be a fun thing to do,” he said.
In fact, head coach Carlos Guerrero, who has been apart of the club since its founding in 2000, has stated that on average 75 percent of the players come in with no prior rugby experience.
This small school’s success is even more of an anomaly considering that their pool of students is from a campus that is more than half female. The male population is limited enough (a total undergraduate population of approximately 3,000 students) that they qualify to have students from the San Diego Community College District play as long as they are enrolled as a full-time student.
Whatever the reason for their success, expectations are high for PLNU once again this season. Both Diaz and Richey are looking at Azusa Pacific University as their toughest competition and the only thing in their way toward getting to regionals and then to nationals.
“We’ll win out in league and regionals, and make another national appearance,” said Diaz. "Then, it’ll depend on who we play.”
PLNU’s first league game was a success against California Lutheran University, who they handedly defeated 54-24. PLNU will play Azusa Pacific (home at Chula Vista Elite Training Center) on Feb. 17, and at UC Irvine on Feb. 24.