October 5, 2016
Cal to Compete at West Coast Collegiate Sevens
Photo: Cal Athletics of Anthony Salaber
Cal Athletics Release: Anton Malko
BERKELEY – Ready to open their competition account for 2016-17, the Golden Bears travel to the Central Coast for their first action since winning their fourth straight national 7s title as California competes at the West Coast Collegiate 7s Saturday, October 8, on Pennington Fields at Talley Sports Complex.
A four-pool, 12-team tournament that has the Bears slotted as the No. 1 overall seed, the WCC7s will send Cal against USC at 11:20 a.m. and Santa Clara at 12:20 p.m. in Pool 1 (all times Pacific). The other pools’ top seeds at the WCC7s are No. 2 overall Saint Mary’s, which is joined by UC Davis and Grand Canyon University in Pool 2; No. 3 overall UCLA, which takes on San Diego State and US Santa Barbara in Pool 3; and No. 4 overall seed Arizona State, which will play Cal Poly and Stanford in Pool 4.
Saturday’s pool winners advance to the cup semifinals at 2 and 2:20 p.m., with the 3rd/4th-place match at 3:20 followed by the tournament final at 3:40 p.m. Weather for the event is expected to include sunny skies and temperatures reaching the upper 80s.
Cal comes into the autumn having gone unbeaten in the Olympic style of the sport for almost two years. The Bears’ last loss in a 7s match came on Oct. 11, 2014, when Cal was edged by UCLA, 14-12, in the West Coast 7s final. Cal has reeled off 41 straight wins since then in Rugby 7s, winning its most recent national title with a 31-7 decision over the Bruins in June’s Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s final.
Among the veteran campaigners expected to make the trip to Cal’s 2016-17 opener Saturday are captainRussell Webb and fellow All-America Anthony Salaber, who not only helped the Bears win the 2015 PAC 7s and 2016 CRC, but are also the only two remaining players on the active roster who were on the pitch the last time Cal was nipped in Olympic rugby. They will be sure to remind the rest of the roster that only a determined, whistle-to-whistle effort over the entire four-match day will be considered acceptable for the Rugby Bears coming out of Saturday’s tourney.
Looking at Cal’s Pool 1 opponents, the Trojans are an improving team under new 7s coach Zac Winter who will look to beat coach Paul Keeler’s Santa Clara Broncos and upset the Bears for a shot at the cup semis. It will be the first 7s meeting between the Bears and USC since the 2013 PAC 7s, when Cal blanked the Trojans, as it did Santa Clara at their last meeting at the 2015 Autumn 7s in Berkeley. If Saturday’s top seeds advance out of pool play, Cal will find itself up against a talented semifinal opponent in the Gaels, Bruins or Sun Devils.
The student-athletes chosen to represent their University at Saturday’s tournament are expected to be a blend of veterans with conference and national postseason experience along with several potential newcomers who could capitalize on vacancies left open as other more experienced players stay on the shelf.
Players with postseason and championship 7s experience who could make the trip Saturday from campus include Thomas Robles and Patrick Barrientes, both big contributors at the CRC; Matt Ternan and Connor Sweet, who played significant minutes in the 2015 PAC 7s; and several other upperclassmen who are vying for selections. As many as six underclassmen could also make the travel squad for Saturday, including freshmenKeanu Andrade, Sam Cusano, Christian Dyer and Ken Kurihara.
“It’s good that the roster limits are expanded,” said head coach Jack Clark of Saturday’s tournament. “It allows us to use the competition to develop some depth and really spread the playing time among the entire travel squad.”
Following this weekend’s kickoff to the 2016 autumn competition calendar, the Blue and Gold will return to campus for two weeks of preparation for the second event of the 7s slate at the Treasure Island stop for the WCC7s held October 22-23. The final event of the fall is the PAC Rugby Conference 7s, held in Tucson November 12-13 and hosted by the University of Arizona. The Bears then transition into 15-a-side play in January and continue through the national postseason before converting back to 7s for their final event of 2016-17 at the Collegiate Rugby Championship.
West Coast Collegiate 7s
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016
Pennington Fields at Talley Sports Complex
4050 Lopez Drive
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420