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Rugby is trying to enter the Cuesta College sports scene

James Zanoli looks to complete a quick pass as he is brought to the ground. Photo by Joe Marcelo

The 1969 New York “Miracle” Mets.

Rudy Reuttiger.

James J. Braddock.

Pre-stardom Tom Brady and his 2001 New England Patriots.

What do all of these names have in common (besides the fact that they all brought sports fans everywhere to tears)?

At some point in time, everyone thought they were going to fail. 

The Central Coast Athletic Club (CCAC), a local rugby club composed of mainly Cuesta College students, started their story the same way. 

This young club got its start when Andrew Doukas, a local club rugby coach, rounded up some of his former players that had since gone on to Cuesta College to put together a team to compete at the college level. 

The club was started as a way to provide local rugby players who didn’t end up on a college rugby team straight out of high school with a way to continue playing the sport that they love, and hopefully to provide some of them with the exposure needed to advance their rugby career to the college level and beyond. 

Since Cuesta College does not have a rugby program offered through their athletic department, most of these players would not have gotten the opportunity to play at the college level otherwise. 

Though CCAC is not an official Cuesta College program, they have been competing as a college-age club against other top rugby teams from four-year institutions around the West Coast for almost two years now. 

More recently, they competed in the 2019 West Coast 7s tournament on Oct. 19 among colleges such as UC Berkeley, USC, and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. 

“We didn’t do as well as we wanted to due to injuries,” said James Zanoli, one of the members of CCAC. “But we still managed to beat USC and San Jose St.” 

Though Zanoli would welcome the opportunity to play at Cuesta College if there was an official team through the athletic department, he feels that the experience he has had with CCAC has been in a way more rewarding. 

“We don’t have any facilities, we don’t have any money, like, we practice at a park,” Zanoli said.  “So coming up onto the D1 level and playing really well against those teams and beating a lot of them is like a really good feeling.”

There’s a reason why the phrase “Do you believe in miracles?” is still the inspiration of memes almost 40 years after it was uttered by Al Michael as the 1980 USA Olympic men’s hockey team won the gold. It’s an indisputable fact — people love the underdog. 

CCAC is no exception. Since the team entered the college rugby scene at the 2018 West Coast 7s tournament, they have caught the eye of both fans and players alike. 

According to Zanoli, all of the West Coast 7s games were broadcast online, and the commentators can be heard over the game footage singing the praises of the CCAC team and the surprise threat they pose to some of the other big name teams. 

“Being the underdog is fun,” Zanoli says. “All these teams hear our name and think they are going to stomp us and then we come out and surprise everyone.” 

That being said, Zanoli says that the main goal is still to become an official Cuesta College club. That way, CCAC has the opportunity to expand their membership and perhaps even have a shot at eventually competing at the USA College Rugby National 7s tournament held every year in May.