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Arkansas State will host Clemson University in the first round of the Varsity Cup on April 9th. It is the second consecutive year that the schools have met in the first round, with Clemson coming from behind to win 26-22 at home last spring.
For this go around, both teams have a bit of a new look. Both Arkansas State and Clemson have undergone coaching changes. Former ASU All-American Shaun Potgeiter has taken over the helm at his Alma Mater, while Steve Lynch has succeeded last year’s Varsity Cup coach of the year Justin Hickey at Clemson.
Clemson come into the match with a combined fall and spring record of 9-5. The Tigers swept through ACRL play in the fall but fell to a tough AIC team in the ACRC Bowl Series. Lynch’s side played a tough spring schedule, including matches against Life, South Carolina, Wheeling Jesuit and fellow Varsity Cup competitors, Navy, Air Force and Penn State.
Playing at home, the Red Wolves will definitely be seeking revenge this year. Although Lynch is new to Clemson, he is anticipating a hungry opponent. The Tigers are well tested coming into the match with ASU, but Lynch admitted it is going to take a full team effort to come away with a victory.
“In order for us to beat Arkansas State, as good as they are playing right now, all 15 guys have to be involved. My first 15 have to play at their absolute best,” Lynch said. “I don’t think they brought their full complement of athletes against us last year. I think they are gunning for us, so we need to bring our very best on both sides of the ball and every single guy needs to play the best that can possibly play in order for us to compete with Arkansas State.”
While Clemson has played a packed schedule all year, ASU matches have been much more scattered. Unfortunately, the Red Wolves had a number of games cancelled, but early contests against tough opponents like Davenport and Life, the Red Wolves were able to gauge the progress of the program.
“That definitely helped us to see where we are in the season,” Potgeiter said of the matches against Davenport and Life. “It was pretty early in the season so it allowed us to fix some things and strengthen our positives. We did have some cancellations after that, which kind of brought us on the back seat with game time. We have had quite a long break at the moment. We are kind of unsure how that will benefit or not be good for us.”
The time off, however, has put ASU in much better place physically this year. Eight man Kirk Pretorius returns after missing most of last year with an ACL injury and captain Robert Elan-Puttick comes in firing on all cylinders from is fly half position. Along with wing Preston Weigel, who missed some of the spring with concussion issues, the Red Wolves come into the game completely healthy.
ASU is excited to host the Varsity Cup this year and are looking to right the wrongs of last year.
“We went down disappointingly as the heavy favorites last year….They played one heck of a game on their home turf and they really brought it to us. It is up to us this time around to bring it to them on our home turf,” Potgeiter iterated.