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Army shook off the rust from a long winter by heading out west for a pair of games. The Black Knights split the contests, beating UCLA 45-19 and losing to San Diego State 22-15
The trip out west got off to a bit of a rocky start with the snow out east. A few of Army’s players arrived the morning of the game with UCLA. Nonetheless, West Point got off to strong start against the Bruins on Thursday night.
“I think we started really strong and we struggled with our discipline for a portion of the game,” said Army coach Matt Sherman.
Army went up 17-0 in the first half thanks to a pair of tries from Jake Lachina and one from James Mbony. Jon Kim extended the lead to 20-0 before the Bruins made things interesting. UCLA scored two tries sandwiched around an Army penalty to cut the lead to 23-10.
“We were in control early but it got pretty competitive in the second half,” Sherman recounted.
The Military Academy stemmed the momentum, however, with Lachina getting the hat trick and Mbony getting his second score. In the end Army managed to come away with 45-19 victory.
“What was very pleasing was that we got a lot of guys that had not seen a lot of first team time some minutes during the game,” Sherman added.
On Saturday, the Black Knights took on San Diego State in a close, hard fought contest. The Aztecs ended up getting the better of Army with a 22-15 victory.
“We were disappointed in the results but there were a lot of positives as well. We defended really well against an attacking team with a lot of flair,” said Sherman.
The first half was a defensive slugfest with neither team conceding a try. The two sides traded penalties and went into the break even at 3-3. Jake Lachina opened the second half scoring with his 15th try of the season. The score set a single season record for an individual at Army.
The Aztecs tied the game in the 57th minute but Army once again took the lead with a try 10 minutes later. San Diego State continued to battle, however, dotting down to tie the game in the 70th minute and getting the game winner with less than two minutes to play in the game.
"It was back and forth and the game was very physical,” San Diego State coach Alex Lichtig told Rugby Today. “They showed their clout on defense, There were times were able to break through but not quite get there because of their scramble defense. Our guys stuck in there, though and got a couple of tries late in the game.”
It was a very solid win for an Aztec side that is searching for an at large berth to the DIA playoffs. San Diego State defeated Arizona earlier this year and now bolstered its hopes of a playoff spot with a win against Army. Despite hiccups against the traditionally strong St. Mary’s and BYU, the Aztecs have had a very strong season.
“I think it has to do with how the team has developed over the few years,” Lichtig said of the good season. “We have some older blood and some newer guys that have folded into the team culture and kind of made it what it is today. The hard work and the focus on performance based evaluation rather than solely results, has fueled the guys to see what they need to get better at.”