CAL TAKES ANOTHER WEST COAST SEVENS BEFORE THE CUP FINAL EVEN HAPPENS

Dustin Rosen /

Lets be serious, Cal Varsity Rugby is way ahead of the rest of the pack.  It seems like every single time they enter a tournament, they win.  In fact, Cal is 139-15 since 2010 and have only lost 2 matches since 2014.  Not to mention, there 1 loss from last year was at West Coast Sevens Treasure Island where they brought an all Freshman and Sophomore team.  I mean look at the Championship’s they have won in the last 5 years:

2013: PAC 7s and CRC’s
2014: PAC 7s and CRC’s
2015: PAC 7s, CRC’s, Autumn 7s and West Coast Sevens
2016: PAC 7s, CRC’s and West Coast Sevens “SLO”
2017: West Coast Sevens “SLO”

Why even go to the tournaments anymore?  Cal is going to win……. and that they did again on Saturday at West Coast Sevens “SLO”.  Actually, Cal won the tournament before the Cup final even happened.  How so?  Cal brought two evenly split squads that battled it out on opposite sides of the tournament pools with both teams ending up in the Cup Final.

“Cal” beat Fresno State, 43-7, and Cal Poly, 31-7, in Pool A, while the “Bears” side beat USC, 24-19, and UC Davis, 28-5, in Pool B. In the semifinals, Cal beat Grand Canyon University, 24-17, while the Bears defeated San Diego State, 31-7.  As if there day couldn’t have looked any better, most of the Cal reserve players went toe to toe in the final, ultimately drawing 21-21.  It’s like it was scripted or something…

Both of Cal’s squads for the day — PC: Alex Ho

“…it was a great team performance this weekend and it was good to have both teams go into the Championship.  I’m proud of everyone that played today.” said MVP, Matthew Coyle.

Coyle, who played alongside the likes of last years Senior leaders, Russell Webb, Anthony Salaber and Patrick Barrientes, had a phenomenal day on the pitch.  Coyle scored three tries on the day and put in seven conversions.

Tournament MVP, Matthew Coyle — PC: Alex Ho

Furthermore, Senior Zachary Tavenner also put down three tries of his own for the day and was a massive game changer.  Tavenner’s lighting quick first step and ability to break the line at any time really opened up the field for Cal.  His aggressive running style was really difficult for defenders to hang with.

Cal Senior, Zachary Tavenner — PC: Alex Ho

Another key player for Cal on the day was Junior, Ben Casey and Senior, Will Fuller.  Casey and Fuller were big physical presences for Cal and Casey put down three tries and Fuller put down four tries on the day.

Cal Junior, Ben Casey — PC: Alex Ho

All that said, the most impressive Freshman on the day was Marcus Shankland.  It seemed like every time Cal was about to score, the UK product was in the mix, leading the team with five tries on the day.  Shankland also joined Sophomore Sam Cusano in being the second freshman in a row to notch three tries in his Cal 7s debut. Cusano, who is one of the best players Cal has on their roster, was not present.

Cal Freshman, Marcus Shankland — PC: Alex Ho

 

FINISHING TOWARDS THE TOP

GCU and San Diego State were the two teams that finished a notch below Cal and GCU really put Cal to the test in their semi final match.

GCU scored first and only trailed Cal 12-10 at half time.  You can tell Head Coach, Cam Wyper is doing a brilliant job over at GCU.  The boys out of Phoenix, Arizona have plenty of talent to win some major matches this season.  Back to back tries in the second half for Cal made it 24-10 but GCU didn’t give up.  GCU put one more try down to make it 24-17 and had another opportunity to tie it up but Cal’s defense prevailed.  GCU went on to take third place and finished 3-1 on the day.

GCU’s Brendon Curle — PC: Alex Ho

SD State had a great start, winning their pool matches 41-7 against Stanford and 22-21 against a really good UCLA side.  Unfortunately, SD State went down hill from there, losing 29-5 against Cal in the semis and 15-0 against GCU  in the third place match. After watching them play, they certainly have what it takes to stay in any match.  They moved the ball very well down the field and displayed great maturity and patience during their phases.

SD State’s Ari Flink — PC: Alex Ho

DEFENDING HOME FIELD

Other than their big loss to Cal, 31-7, Cal Poly had a great tournament! They won big over San Jose State, 32-10, took down UCSB with ease 27-12 and then ultimately won the Plate Final in heroic fashion, beating UC Davis at the last second, 19-15.  “We have a ton of support.  There is a big crowd down here with our alumni so were definitely looking to defend home turf” said Head Coach, James Teserio who has made unbelievable strides with the Cal Poly Rugby program in recent years. Even after losing a couple of key seniors, Cal Poly has been able to maintain well.  Cal Poly’s second side also went 3-0 on the day, finishing with the best record in the round robin tournament.

You can see there heroic last second try in the Plate Final here:

 

TOURNEY SHOCKER 

The first team who really surprised me was UCSB.  Last year, UCSB looked like nothing more than a bunch of college kids who just started playing the game.  They had some really tough matches last year in San Luis Obispo but this year, things definitely changed.

UCSB won their first match 19-7 against Santa Clara and then went down to the last second with GCU.  For a moment, I thought to myself “Oh my goodness, UCSB could make the Cup Semi Finals with a win here!!”….It was all tied up at 14 a piece with hardly anytime left on the clock.  Unfortunately for UCSB, GCU prevailed with a last second try.  UCSB then lost to Cal Poly in the Plate semis and to UCLA just 19-12 in the 7th place match.  After watching them play last year, the program has definitely made a complete turn around.  Head Coach Tim Lewis is clearly doing a fantastic job.  They will be a team to watch closely in Treasure Island.

UCSB playing Sclara — PC: Alex Ho


BETTER THAN YOU THINK

UCLA

UCLA started off their day with a 41-0 win over Stanford.  They looked good and seemed to be firing on all cylinders.  Veteran players like Cian Barry, Jordan Robertson and Yanick Mendes led the way.  In their second match, they fell in a heart breaker to SD State 22-21 and they seemed to take that negative momentum into their plate semi final match against UC Davis, losing 15-12.  They did however win their last match of the day 19-12 against UCSB.

UCLA is better than you think.  They have all the talent to play well but they need to commit to structure.  If UCLA can come out and focus on every minute, rather than every 7, I think they will perform much better.  It is really the little things they need to capitalize on and it should be a matter of time before it all comes together.  Not to mention, their Captain, Niall Barry is out with a shoulder injury and will not be returning anytime soon.  Losing Niall and not having veteran Jax Carter around is not going to make you better.  We’ll see if they can turn things around in Treasure Island October 21-22.

UCLA — PC: Rugby 7s Magazine

USC

After winning the Tri Tip 7s back in September and then taking home the Fort Worth 7s a couple weeks ago, USC seemed to be red hot coming into West Coast Sevens.  Unfortunately, that flame went out the first match of the tournament and set a tough tone going forward.  In their first match, USC was up 19-7 on Cal at the half, with tries from St Mary transfer, Alejandro Duran and Sean Cooper.

As a USC player, you couldn’t have hoped for a better start but the tables quickly turned.  Cal scored three consecutive tries and shut USC out in the second half.  Cal stole all of the momentum in the second half as USC played not to lose, rather than to win.  The momentum shift really had USC in a daze, and they could not find a way to get back on track. Cal won 24-19.

USC then went down again to a tough UC Davis team 12-7, landing them in a rather easy Bowl bracket going forward.  USC beat Stanford 22-17 and then beat Santa Clara 19-15 to grab the Bowl.  USC has the talent to perform better and they have already proven that.  However, do they have “enough talent” to finish towards the top in bigger tournaments?  If USC expects to win more tournaments, their reserves will have to play good minutes to keep the starters rested.  I expect USC to have a much better showing in Treasure Island.

USC wins the Bowl — PC: Rugby 7s Magazine


DON’T FORGET ABOUT…

Whenever you play UC Davis, you know their going to be physical. There not the biggest team or the fastest team but they know how to stay in games, and really make you work for everything you get. After grinding out their first win of the day against USC 12-7, they had an opportunity to push to the Cup semis with a win over Cal.

Considering UC Davis was the last team to beat Cal and the only team to beat them in their 2016 season, Davis knew Cal would be extra prepared for their match. Cal’s defense was relentless, locking Davis up and holding them to just 5 points, which was the lowest Davis had scored all tournament. Cal won 24-5.

UC Davis went on to play a tough UCLA team in the Plate Semis and continued to play well defensively, winning 15-12. I honestly love watching Davis play. They know how to grind out matches to give themselves a shot and they do it consistently. There is a lot of heart on the UC Davis sideline and the guys play very well together. That said, Davis lost to a last second try in the Plate Final against Cal Poly, 19-15. Watch Davis closely at Treasure Island. They have what it takes to make a deep run.

UC Davis celebrates — PC: Rugby 7s Magazine

OVERALL STANDINGS:

  1. Cal
  2. Bears
  3. GCU
  4. SD State
  5. Cal Poly
  6. UC Davis
  7. UCLA
  8. UCSB
  9. USC
  10. Santa Clara
  11. Fresno State
  12. Stanford

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