By Melody Chu
As a number of UC Santa Cruz men’s rugby players sat on the grass comparing and icing injuries following their fifth game of the day, assistant coach Scott Carson approached them with another request."Thirty minutes after this game ends, you guys will play one last game against Santa Clara," Carson said.The players groaned."They paid the entry fee and they want one more game," Carson said. "So one more game they’ll get."Veteran Daniel Jarvis, lying on his back with an bag of ice over his swollen right knee, explained, "Rugby is kind of like football. We’re used to one game a weekend." He continued, "My body aches. But this won’t be as bad as the next morning."The Slugs played six games during last Saturday’s Slugfest, a day-long event that brought in eight teams from Cal Poly SLO, UC Davis, Santa Clara University and Cal State Chico. UCSC finished the day with a combined record of 4-2."We have a lot of rookies," senior Chris Mander said. "More important than anything is to get them experience."The preseason tournament, the first and only one of its kind to be hosted by UCSC this year, also helped bring in revenue to help the team start its year. Each visiting school paid $500 to enter an A-team and a B-team in the competition.Instead of stacking experienced players into one team, the Slugs chose to separate their roster into two equally competitive squads."We ended up getting everybody three or four games in," Carson said. "They all played until they were dead tired."Rugby is known as a physically demanding sport, but unlike football, it is played with absolutely no padding. "It feels good to release," said junior Aaron Dann. Dann layed an impressive licking on a Cal Poly player late in their match, helping to thwart a potential SLO comeback."I know how bad I will feel if he scores," Dann said. "I don’t want to let my team down."Joel Oubre, who scored the third try in UCSC’s first game, said, "We don’t run around people. We run through people."Originally, the tournament was supposed to be played in stages with winners advancing to the next round, but a no-show by the University of San Francisco threw a in wrench in those plans. The Slugfest became more of a free-for-all, with teams being notified of their next challenger just minutes before the game was to start.The games were no doubt tough, but for the most part the players took it in stride."Rugby players always play hurt," Jarvis said. "But we have hope not to play injured."Four alumni players returned to UCSC specifically to compete at Slugfest. "I think it’s just the nature of the camaraderie in rugby," said 2004 alumni Paul Gagliardi, who currently resides in San Jose. "Everyone keeps in touch."Oubre, a 2005 graduate, took it one step further, driving all the way back from Michigan in order to play again. "I drove 890 miles on the last day by myself," Oubre said. "I got back Wednesday, and was at Thursday’s practice."Oubre added, "I couldn’t even walk after Thursday’s practice. I haven’t played rugby in five months."Eamon Newton, a 2004 graduate, was just as exhausted. "We feel like a piece of shit," Newton admitted, sprawled out on the grass while watching UCSC’s second team take on Davis. "I remember the glory days. There is no way to prepare for rugby except by playing a lot."Between games, the players stripped out of their sweat-drenced jerseys and threw them out on the grass so that they could dry in the hot October sun.Then they chugged down water from communal jugs as they recapped their last game and discussed strategy for the upcoming match.After all, while this is only preseason, every game matters.Both the men’s and women’s rugby teams at UCSC have found a tremendous amount of success competing at the DII level. The women’s team was crowned 2006 National Champions, while the men’s team missed the playoffs by mere points.And although the Slugs won’t always have the help of alumni players, they haven’t had too much trouble recruiting new players."We get a list of people at UCSC that weighs over 200 pounds," Dann joked. "No, we recruit and we get contacted by people who want to play."As members of the team explained, many new recruits played high school football, but others are new to the world of contact sports."We’ve had to overcome adversity through long nights in the gym," rookie player Christos Fotopoulos said. "But it’s a really good feeling to know we’re going to kick the shit out of the other team."