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Strong Field of Teams at West Coast 7s

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Strong Field of Teams at West Coast 7s

San Luis Obispo hosts the West Coast 7s this weekend, with several of the top college programs from the West Coast set to face off.

Among the intriguing entries are St. Mary’s, getting the #1 seed, San Diego State, which won the Cal State 7s in Sacramento, two-time defending CRC winners Cal, and new varsity program Grand Canyon.

St. Mary’s might be the #1 seed but it’s still a huge question how they will do. Most of the Gaels upperclassmen are concentrating on starting the 15s season soon, and it’s a young group that Tony Samaniego and other coaches will take to San Luis Obispo.

Sophomore Alec Barton out of San Diego is a talent in the forwards, and back Austen Middleton is also a sophomore with promise.

Newcomer Vili Helu hurt his shoulder in training and will miss this weekend, but Samaniego said they have more depth.

“We had 25 players shooting for those 15 spots,” said Samaniego. “We are very young, but we’ve got an exciting group of players,.”

Meanwhile Cal is of course expected to be strong.

“The aspect I most look forward to seeing is the maturity and development of our players,” Cal Head Coach Jack Clark said. “A year is a long time in the lifespan of a collegiate athlete. The individual improvement of some players can be astonishing.”
Cal has some very experienced 7s players to call on, including seniors Andrew Battaglia, and Jake Anderson, junior Russell Webb, and seniors Paul Bosco, Nicklas Boyer, and Eakalafi Okusi (26, T-8th).
Jesse Milne, Alec Gletzer, and junior Anthony Salaber also look to get time, while speedy scrumhalf Lucas Dunne is available after missing the CRC due to injury.
Of note among the potential newcomers to Cal’s 7s squad is the 6-6 junior James Kondrat, a lock in 15s who earned honorable mention All-America honors last year. Kondrat’s aerial skills could add an interesting dimension on the 7s pitch for the Bears.
Other 7s squad members vying for selection include senior Matthew Chipman, juniors Christian Hess, Miles Honens, Karl Thornton, Cameron Todd, and sophomores Connor Sweet and Billy Maggs, and freshman Hugo D’Auriol.
Cal will be without Seamus Kelly, who graduated after captaining the team for three years. Jake Anderson will be captain this fall. Also gone from the Bears following last spring’s graduation is center Brad Harrington, a CRC 7s championship starter and former 7s All-American, and fellow All-American Josh Tucker, and senior Carl Hendrickson, who is conducting a semester study off-campus.
“In the fall we divide the team by 7s and 15s, building and executing training plans which are specific to both groups,” Clark added. “Appreciating how demanding our main competitive season is in the spring, we attempt to manage the volume on the student-athletes in the fall. I think we have found the right balance in the fall with only three competitions, and a field-training and strength-and-conditioning schedule of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In the blink of an eye it will be January double days followed by a five-month everyday slog. So for now, reduced volume is a necessity.”
Cal has never won the West Coast 7s, losing in the final last year, and finishing 3rd in 2012. The Bears are in Pool 2 with Arizona and San Jose. St. Mary’s, winners in 2011 and 2012, is joined by Santa Clara and Grand Canyon. GCU is likely to be very young as they continue to build their program. UCLA, which won this tournament in 2013, heads up Pool 3 with Arizona State and a rebuilding UCSB. If there’s a Pool of Death, it might be Pool #4. Cal Poly is very solid - 4th in 2013 - and San Diego State has already won a tournament led by Kalei Konrad, Austin Switzer, and Trev Christiansen. This may well be a breakout year for Konrad, who is already an All American.

UC Davis is seeded lowest in Pool 4, but they certainly have the ability to win it.

The West Coast 7s kicks off at 10am Pacific Time at the Cal Poly Sports Complex in San Luis Obispo. The tournament will be webstreamed live.

Pool 1
#1 SMC
#8 Santa Clara
#12 Grand Canyon

Pool #2
#2 CAL
#7 Arizona
#11 San Jose

Pool #3
#6 ASU
#10 UCSB

Pool #4
#4 Cal Poly
#9 UC Davis