By Samantha Thompson

If there was any doubt about who the best team in the country was, the UC Santa Cruz women’s rugby team crushed it on Sunday, toppling Western Oregon Univeristy 36-7 to officially secure the No.1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.

“We’ve been training for this game the whole season,” junior Michelle Sit said. “It doesn’t feel like … the playoffs until we play Oregon.”

Before Sunday’s match, the Slugs had clinched a spot in the Elite Eight, which will be held in Florida, Apr. 21-22.

For senior and captain Megan Healy, the game was about more than just pole position.

“This game was not just to get the standings to go to Florida, but also for pride,” Healy said. “We knew we were going to Florida ,but this game was just to show them why we won last year and that we’re serious about winning this year too.”

The Slugs defeated Western Oregon University in the same round of last year’s playoffs en route to their championship win, but by only a three point margin. Sit knew this match would not be easy.

“We were very cautious and we knew that they were hungry for it but I think at the end it’s just who wants it more,” Sit said. “Even after we were up by a lot, it was always 0-0 in our minds.”

Some players, including junior Kerry Kubo, were unsure of how they would match up with what they expected to be their toughest competition this season.

“I wasn’t really expecting [to do so well], but I’m the cynic of the team,” Kubo said. “For a whole bunch of rookies this was amazing.”

The team has changed drastically over the past year, having lost key starters and gained several freshmen, nine of whom are in the starting lineup.

“A lot of first-year players are really stepping up despite all the pressure,” Coach Brett Amos said. “They were really nervous before the game, but rose to the occasion.”

Kevin “Skippy” Givens, director of intramural and club sports, makes it out to all women’s rugby games and noticed some of the nervous tension.

“This is probably the best game they’ve played all year even though they weren’t quite crisp at the start of the game,” Givens said. “Once they started rolling, they just dominated.”

Even with the experience of winning a national title under their belts, the Slugs know that returning to the postseason as the defending champions means they’ll have a bull’s-eye on them at all times, according to Amos.

“Last year we were just some random team from Santa Cruz, and now we’re back and everyone knows that we won,” Amos said. “We just have to be prepared.”

It seems that no one is getting too ahead of themselves as the women’s rugby team advances in the playoffs.

“They’re the No.1 seed, so things are set up for [them to win again], but you still have to play the game,” Givens said. “You don’t want to jinx yourself, but we have the talent, we have the ability, we have the drive, the desire. Everything is in place for that to happen.”