PAC Conference 7s Tight As Ever
PAC Conference 7s Tight As Ever
It's going to be a bit of a repeat of October as November welcomes the PAC-12 Conference Sevens to Stanford.
the top three teams in the West Coast 7s in October, UCLA, Arizona, and Cal, will likely be the top three once again. But the tournament as a whole is quite deep with talented teams. Some of them have jumped right into 7s from 15s, but that might not be the handicap some think it is.
Pool A: Cal, Utah, USC, Washington State
The Bears have had a bit of a rough go of it this fall—rough for them, that is. Injuries to some key upperclassmen kind of forced the team to rework some combinations. This week's lineup is missing Christian Dyer, Sam Cusano, Max Clark, Jason Severance, Henry Poon, and Kevin Saunders.
"Even with a depleted roster, we have the makings of a good team," said Cal Head Coach Jack Clark. "If we can keep our errors to a minimum, which is understandably difficult for a young team, we have a solid chance."
Cal's definition of "young" is different than that for many other teams. For most rugby teams, if you're not a freshman, then you're not "young." But for Cal, it takes a while to fully absorb the system ... usually. There's often a young player who takes to his role quickly, and this time around, Max Schumacher has been that player. He is joined by the experienced Marcus Shankland and the powerful Seth Purdey. Sam Golla returns to the lineup for the first time this season.
Cal is favored to win the pool, but after that things get tougher.
The Utes showed flashes of ability in the West Coast 7s. It's a case of taking what Levi Hunt and Kelsin Pupunu can do and gluing the other pieces in place. In the West Coast 7s, the Utes did manage to make the top eight, but couldn't go any further. But the Utes will point to their close loss to Santa Clara as evidence that they weren't too far off finishing a creditable 5th. A little more game awareness and they could be right there.
As usual, the Trojans play some good team rugby, but often lack that all-out runner, and certainly lack some size. As the tournament progresses, they can get beat up.
Coming off 15s where WSU shut out Washington last week, the Cougars have some talent. they are young but in a rugby sense they can handle themselves and have the ability to break open a game, and with Will Suddeth and Jackson Martin they can pound opponents, too.
Pool B: UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford
Led by Shane Barry, who was MVP of the West Coast 7s, and with Patrick French, Eric Naposki, Lucas Lacamp, and Patrick Regan all part of an experienced group, UCLA seems to have it all. They are elusive, they have hard-nosed defenders, and they can burn you.
But that may not be enough. UCLA needed all of that to beat Arizona in the West Coast 7s, and will need that again.
After taking care of Cal in impressive fashion at Treasure Island, Arizona let the West Coast 7s slip through their fingers. Still, captain Ben Scoular has a deep team with vice captain Matt Rogers leading a group that includes Riley Kerr, Joe Sargeant, Jon Rogers, and freshman Brendon Paulsen.
"We know we'll need all 14 to win this again in a tough conference," said Head Coach Sean Duffy.
Like UCLA, Arizona can beat you in a number of ways, and while they are proud of their speed, it's possibly their physicality that could win it.
Coming off a 15s loss to Oregon, OSU has to regroup. Head Coach Troy Hall has some talent to draw on. Juwan Johnson is a handful, and Dane McKinney has been playing some exciting rugby, too. But it will be tough to bring it all together in a pool with two polished teams such as UCLA and Arizona.
At least Stanford has been playing some 7s. And they did pretty wel, making the Cup Quarterfinals in the West Coast 7s, and getting a win on Day Two before hitting the wall against Santa Clara. Stanford needs to keep that teamwork going. Ball movement and relentless defense has to work for them to advance.