Courtesy: Anton Malko
The PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament, hosted by UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3-4, gathers all the members of the Pac-12 conference in a two-day tilt that will showcase some of the best rugby teams in the nation.
Universities in the Pac-12 have enjoyed long and successful histories in the 15-a-side version of the game, which is played each spring by American colleges and contested every four years at the Rugby World Cup. But unlike that traditional competition, the fall season of seven-a-side rugby offers an opportunity to compete in the same format of the sport that will be reintroduced to the Summer Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games after a 92-year absence.
In the last two Olympics to include rugby, the 1920 and ’24 Games, the U.S. emerged as the gold medalist, and with the development of an autumn collegiate 7s competition, today’s student-athletes aspire to represent their country once again on that world stage. The PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament offers an exciting platform to showcase their skills and determination.
Action at the PAC Sevens begins Saturday morning at 9 a.m. PT with No. 3-ranked Cal against USC on the Bruins’ North Athletic Field and ends after 34 matches with the tourney final at 2 p.m. PT Sunday. In a demonstration of the talent that pervades the Pac-12, which defines itself as the “conference of champions,” two-thirds of the field are currently either ranked or on the watch list of the national Top 25 entering the weekend.
An alphabetical, team-by-team preview underscores how exciting and wide open the PAC Sevens is sure to be.
The Wildcats advanced to the final of the 2012 Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s with since-graduated star Peter Tiberio and have never lost a pool-play match in three trips to the CRC 7s, reaching the semifinals in 2010 and quarterfinals in 2011. Their 7s program is listed on national Top 25 watch list.
Players to Watch: Senior captain Craig Samoyed, juniors Jack Arnold, Shane Carter, Jake Haebe and Kyle Thompson
Head Coach: David Sitton (35th year)
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Also on the national rankings watch list are the Sun Devils, who compete in their third tournament of fall 2012 at the PAC Sevens. They advanced to the semifinals of the West Coast 7s Invitational in October. Arizona State enters the weekend with all-time 7s record of 84-28 (.750).
Players to Watch: Juniors Adam Sandstrom, Erik Moon and Kolton Molina, sophomore Sione Letoi
Head Coach: Gary B. Lane (12th year)
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
The Bears, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation, enter the PAC Sevens with a 17-2 record having won the Buckeye 7s and Stanford 7s, with a third-place finish in between at the West Coast 7s. Cal earned a bronze medal at the 2012 College Rugby Championship 7s and advanced to the final of the inaugural CRC 7s in 2010. The last two USA Olympic rugby teams included six Cal players who helped the Americans win gold.
Players to Watch: Senior 7s All-Americans captain Seamus Kelly, juniors Jake Anderson, a 7s All-American, and Paul Bosco, freshman Russell Webb
Head Coach: Jack Clark (30th year)
The Buffaloes carry a fall 2012 record of 15-6-1 into the PAC Sevens, which will be Colorado’s eighth event of the season. A current member of the national rankings watch list, the Buffs finished sixth at the 2011 College 7s Championships after winning their conference. In early October they were the winners of their own University of Colorado Fall 7s Tournament.
Players to Watch: Senior captain Kevin Barry, juniors Brendan Cox, a 7s All-American, and Sean Kilfoyle, sophomore Adam Page
Head Coach: Jim Snyder (2nd year)
The Ducks will notch their third tournament of the fall 2012 season at the PAC Sevens, having competed earlier this autumn at the Corvallis 7s and NCRC 7s. In only its second year of official seven-a-side play, Oregon has seen improvement across its program with wins over Washington, Washington State and Eastern Washington. Last year at UCLA’s Dennis Storer Classic, the Ducks defeated Arizona in 15-a-side play.
Players to Watch: Senior Tom Watson, junior captain R.J. Ghilarducci, sophomore Anton Matschek
Head Coach: Pate Tuisue (1st year)
OREGON STATE BEAVERS
The Beavers enter the weekend at 6-3 in the fall of 2012 and will vie for the PAC Sevens title after finishing third at the Northwest Collegiate Sevens, beating Washington, 17-7, in the 3rd/4th playoff. Oregon State, on national rankings watch list, has also notched wins over Washington State and Idaho so far this season.
Players to Watch: Senior Sean McFadden, juniors Nathan Kimmel and Haitsuka Pono
Head Coach: Anthony Lally (2nd year)
The Cardinal travels to Los Angeles this weekend after hosting the Stanford 7s Invitational on Oct. 13. Stanford has had success in the 7s code of the game, beating Washington State, UCLA, Arizona State, Cal Poly, Georgia and Yale in 2011. Also a contributor to Olympic rugby glory for the United States, the Cardinal is coached by Matt Sherman, a former All-American and national team player and coach.
Players to Watch: Senior captain Dan Ibarra, sophomore Austin Carey, freshman Sam Falkenhagen
Head Coach: Matt Sherman (3rd year)
Like every team in the competition, the Bruins are a young 7s program at 18-9 all-time, but UCLA shares a long history with its conference peers and alumnus Dennis Storer was the first coach of the U.S. National Team. Currently ranked No. 22 nationally, UCLA achieved a highlight earlier this fall by beating No. 6 Saint Mary’s, 14-12, in pool play at the Stanford 7s.
Players to Watch: Junior captain Grant Penney, sophomore Ben Francis, freshman Sebastian Sharpe
Head Coach: Scott Stewart (10th year)
Founded in 1911, the Trojans’ history includes the title at the 1965 and ’67 Monterey Tournaments, which for many years crowned the unofficial national champion of collegiate rugby. The 2012 USC squad arrives at the PAC Sevens with a roster containing only two seniors, one of whom is the 6-4, 205-pound captain Zachary Timm from Park Ridge, Ill. Dave Lytle is one of three head coaches at the PAC Sevens with 30 or more years of experience.
Player to Watch: Senior captain Zachary Timm
Head Coach: Dave Lytle (30th year)
The Utes, ranked No. 15 in the nation, won the 2010 CRC 7s and have advanced to the 15-a-side national finals and semifinals twice each in their history. Utah injected a strong presence into the conference’s rugby standard when it became a member of the Pac-12 in 2011. Last February at the Las Vegas Invitational 7s, the Utes advanced to the tournament final, beating UCLA along the way. Head coach Blake Burdette is a former All-American and national team rugby player who also played gridiron football for Utah.
Players to Watch: Senior Lopeti Lauti, junior A.J. Tuineau, freshman Tonata Lauti
Head Coach: Blake Burdette
The Huskies, another team on Top 25 watch list, enter their fourth tournament of the fall 2012 season at the PAC Sevens, where they will look to build on their success against participating teams, having beaten Arizona and Stanford in 2011. Washington has already earned victories this season over Oregon State, Idaho, Eastern Washington and Washington State, beating the Cougars, 20-12, to advance to the plate final of the Poluse 7s in Pullman, Wash.
Player to Watch: Junior captain Justin Santos
Head Coach: Brian Schoener (2nd year)
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
Washington State is not to be overlooked as it arrives at the PAC Sevens with a 7-8 won-loss record to date in the fall of 2012. The Cougars have split two meetings with state rival Washington and went a respectable 3-2 at the NCRC 7s. It will be the first meeting in 7s between Washington State and the majority of the teams in this tournament.
Players to Watch: Seniors Jordan Rehwaldt and Lars Swenson, sophomore Casey Smith, freshman Tayler Fischlin
Head Coach: Matt Hudson (3rd Year)